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THE GARDEN OF MARTYRS

Writing with a good feel for the period, White (Marked Man, 2000, etc.) manages to get the history right and keep the...

A historical thriller about two real-life Irish Catholics who were arrested for a brutal murder in early 19th-century Boston.

The great flood of Irish immigration has barely begun in 1805, but New England is a seedbed of nativist resentment all the same. Staunchly Protestant and overwhelmingly xenophobic, the Yankees of the new republic fear foreigners and hate Catholics—especially when the two are one. For French priest Jean Cheverus, the newcomers are both a challenge and a promise as he works among them to build a Catholic society in the New World, but to most Bostonians the Irish are a plague of locusts intent on despoiling their paradise. When a peaceable farmer is murdered in broad daylight on the Post Road in November 1805 and two Irishmen are charged with the crime, these fears seem justified. Dominic Daley and James Halligan are found near the scene with their pockets full of the dead man’s money and are identified by an eyewitness who saw them with the victim that very day. It looks like a good case for the prosecution, and the truth is that even a poor one would probably get an Irish Catholic hanged. Daley’s devout wife and parents, however, refuse to believe the charge, and they ask Father Cheverus to intervene with the governor. Cheverus, who lived through the French Revolution and fears a new persecution in Boston, wants to keep the Church neutral, but he also feels obliged to help members of his flock. Daley and Halligan, for their part, swear that they are innocent and claim they found the money in a field. Their lawyer is given only three days to prepare their case. Don’t expect a replay of the Amistad trial here.

Writing with a good feel for the period, White (Marked Man, 2000, etc.) manages to get the history right and keep the narrative taut at the same time.

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-32208-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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