Nevertheless, a vividly imagined story that keeps nagging away at the corners of your mind. The Looking Glass is well worth...



With wry wit and understated compassion, French-British author Roberts (Impossible Saints, 1998, etc.) studies the ironies of loving—and of truly knowing the hearts and minds of those whom one loves.

Roberts’s flavorful new novel consists of two stories related sequentially, though otherwise more or less discrete. The first is orphaned Geneviève Délange’s narrative of her early years in a home run by stern, unloving nuns, the refuge she found in hearing and thereafter inventing stories (the most formative of them is a fable about a mermaid attempting to live outside her element), and her brief happiness in the employ of an indulgent mistress—until the latter’s coarse new husband compromises the servant girl, and Geneviève is sent packing. Thereafter, the novel is divided into several first-person narratives, juxtaposing Geneviève’s account of her new life in the home of amorous bachelor poet Gérard Colbert, with the stories told about him by Gérard’s domineering mother, his young niece Marie-Louise, her English governess Millicent, and Gérard’s out-of-town married mistress Isabelle. All these women are to one degree or another infatuated, if not deeply involved with, the taciturn (though, one presumes, smoldering) Master of the House—and Roberts’s tricky structure suggests a series of mirrors in which these females observe themselves falling under his spell. Comparisons to Jane Eyre are doubtless inevitable, though the Gothic momentum that animates Bronte’s romantic masterpiece is largely missing here, because Roberts seems determined to give each of her women sufficient space in which to reveal the secrets of her heart. This jars against the reader’s compelling interest in Geneviève, whose complex relationships with all the Colberts and rueful sense of her own lowly place (“Sooner or later the mermaid had to return to the sea, which was her only true home”) ought, one feels, to have received higher narrative and thematic priority.

Nevertheless, a vividly imagined story that keeps nagging away at the corners of your mind. The Looking Glass is well worth peering into.

Pub Date: July 11, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6700-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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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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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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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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