Next book

THE STRANGE AND TRUE TALE OF HORACE WELLS, SURGEON DENTIST

Downs succeeds in crafting a fast-paced narrative full of humor, vivid description, and lively characters. A few too many...

Downs’ debut novel dramatizes the life of Horace Wells, a mid-19th-century Connecticut dentist on a quest to eliminate pain.

Wells and his wife, Elizabeth, attend a show where volunteers inhale nitrous oxide. He enjoys how the gas makes him feel and immediately recognizes its possible medical applications. When he and his colleagues use it during the removal of one of his own teeth, he’s certain he has made a great discovery. After further experimentation on himself and volunteers, he asks William Morton, a Boston-based dentist and former business partner, to set up a demonstration at a prestigious hospital. But the gas doesn’t seem to work when Wells pulls a medical student's tooth. He suspects Morton of sabotage and has a mental breakdown. Meanwhile, Elizabeth urges him to recover, focus on dentistry, and have another child with her. Wells, however, is determined to change history and has sworn not to risk impregnating her again, because she almost died during the birth of their son. It comes as a surprise, then, when he sleeps with a patient. Other painful and somewhat forced episodes follow, including a trip to sell a new invention during which he shoots his injured horse, stays in a commune, and attends an ether-inhaling party that ends with a boy being tortured to death. Upon returning home, he learns that Morton has popularized the use of gases as anesthesia. He tries to set the record straight, but his deteriorating mental health, brought upon by continuous recreational gas trips, stands firmly in his way.

Downs succeeds in crafting a fast-paced narrative full of humor, vivid description, and lively characters. A few too many tangents and point-of-view shifts make it a more arduous journey than it might have been.

Pub Date: May 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-946724-04-5

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Acre

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

Categories:
Next book

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 26


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

Next book

THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 26


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

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 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

Close Quickview