A passionate, poetic coming-of-age story set in a mine field, brilliantly capturing the intensity of feeling on both sides...

SADNESS IS A WHITE BIRD

A very young Israeli soldier whose best friends are Palestinian twins is driven to the breaking point by conflicting loyalties.

Rothman-Zecher’s debut begins in the “fluorescent glow of a jail cell” just days after its narrator’s 19th birthday. In an epistolary narrative addressed to his friend Laith, Jonathan pours out his heart and sorts through his past. Two years earlier, before his senior year of high school, Jonathan’s family returned to Israel after a long stint in Pennsylvania. The family’s history—his grandfather left the Greek city of Salonica before the Nazis deported all its Jews to concentration camps; other family members did not—has given Jonathan a profound sense of the importance of the Jewish state. Thus he was eagerly awaiting the beginning of his military service when he met Laith and his sister, Nimreen, tall, brilliant, cool Palestinian twins, students at Haifa University, both with eyes “the color of a sidewalk after a misty summer rain.” Charmed and amused by the boy and his really pretty decent command of Arabic, they take him under their wings, and all more or less fall in love with each other. Over a long series of adventures, bus trips, nights on the beach, marijuana-fueled conversations, and poetry readings, Jonathan begins to see the occupation through the eyes of his friends and grasps that their family history is no less tragic than his own. Then his draft date arrives, and before long his unit is sent as a police presence to a demonstration in the Territories. “Today, you’re going to put down a riot,” their commander says. What happens that day is the reason Jonathan is in jail, the reason for this cri de coeur to his beloved friend Laith.

A passionate, poetic coming-of-age story set in a mine field, brilliantly capturing the intensity of feeling on both sides of the conflict.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7626-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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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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