Do you believe what you see with your eyes or what you see with your heart? That question, raised by Simonds’ layered and...

REFUGE

A 96-year-old woman is forced to face corrosive truths about the past in Simonds’ (Gutenberg's Fingerprint, 2017, etc.) examination of the quest for certainty and its costs.

Born the ninth daughter to a rural Canadian farming family at the turn of the 20th century, Cass MacCallum becomes her father’s favored companion as he pursues his avocation of scientific observation and experimentation. A bout of tuberculosis, coupled with her growing interest and expertise in the natural sciences, leads Cass to a career in nursing. That vocation, in part, leads her to crisscross the Americas—Canada to Mexico City to New York—during the early part of the century, as the turbulence of world wars, labor disputes, and wars between border states unfold. When confronted with the possibility that a young Burmese woman seeking refugee status in Canada is actually the granddaughter of her beloved and long-lost son, and the only remaining connection to family she may still have, Cass must sift through decades of memories, photographs, and memorabilia before making a decision which will affect the course of not only her own life, but that of the determined young woman standing before her. Cass, whose devotion to the scientific method and powers of observation have carried her far from her provincial upbringing, must weigh the likelihood of patrimony versus opportunism when choosing how to proceed with the unexpected prospect of a familial relationship late in life. Cameo appearances from the likes of Frida Kahlo fill in the background in this portrait of a woman whose life paralleled some of the most tumultuous cultural and political events in modern times.

Do you believe what you see with your eyes or what you see with your heart? That question, raised by Simonds’ layered and nuanced account of an extraordinary life, will provoke thought in skeptics and believers alike.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77041-418-1

Page Count: 328

Publisher: ECW Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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