Charyn makes artful use of historical fact and fiction’s panache to capture the man before he became one of the great U.S....

THE PERILOUS ADVENTURES OF THE COWBOY KING

A NOVEL OF TEDDY ROOSEVELT AND HIS TIMES

A rendering of Teddy Roosevelt’s early life that spotlights formative moments in colorful, entertaining episodes.

The young boy saw a werewolf near his bed at night when an asthma attack came on. As Teddy narrates, his father would order up “the Roosevelt high phaeton with its pair of long-tailed horses” and let the wind fill Teddy’s lungs in thrilling rides on the “scorched plains of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.” He was the youngest man in the state Assembly, where he says he wore “a pince-nez with a gold tassel, and a peacoat from my Harvard days.” When he lost his mother and wife within hours of each other, he fled west, to Dakota territory, “with silver stirrups, a tailored buckskin suit, and a Bowie knife from Tiffany’s.” But he’s pulled back to New York, where he becomes a police commissioner fiercely disliked for his blue laws and anti-corruption drive. He’s rescued from a melee at the Social Reform Club by his new squad of bicycle cops, whose leader will join him in Cuba. Before Charyn (Jerzy, 2017, etc.) ends with President William McKinley’s assassination, he gives the Rough Riders a big slice of the book not just for TR’s famous hill charge, but for the reluctant leader who could scrounge for his troops and suffer whatever the men suffered—though he also had a tent from Abercrombie & Fitch. The prolific Charyn has written scripts for graphic books. With TR, there’s a sense of the outsize characters of 19th-century dime novels, though without the hagiography. Roosevelt embodied contradictions—a privileged reformist, a cowpoke from Manhattan, an honest politician—and his private life was riddled by strife and loss.

Charyn makes artful use of historical fact and fiction’s panache to capture the man before he became one of the great U.S. presidents and a face on Mount Rushmore.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63149-387-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

THE WINTER GUEST

An 18-year-old Polish girl falls in love, swoons over a first kiss, dreams of marriage—and, oh yes, we are in the middle of the Holocaust.

Jenoff (The Ambassador’s Daughter, 2013, etc.) weaves a tale of fevered teenage love in a time of horrors in the early 1940s, as the Nazis invade Poland and herd Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. A prologue set in 2013, narrated by a resident of the Westchester Senior Center, provides an intriguing setup. A woman and a policeman visit the resident and ask if she came from a small Polish village. Their purpose is unclear until they mention bones recently found there: “And we think you might know something about them.” The book proceeds in the third person, told from the points of view mostly of teenage Helena, who comes upon an injured young Jewish-American soldier, and sometimes of her twin, Ruth, who is not as adventurous as Helena but is very competitive with her. Their father is dead, their mother is dying in a hospital, and they are raising their three younger siblings amid danger and hardship. The romance between Helena and Sam, the soldier, is often conveyed in overheated language that doesn’t sit well with the era’s tragic events: “There had been an intensity to his embrace that said he was barely able to contain himself, that he also wanted more.” Jenoff, clearly on the side of tolerance, slips in a simplified historical framework for the uninformed. But she also feeds stereotypes, having Helena note that Sam has “a slight arch to his nose” and a dark complexion that “would make him suspect as a Jew immediately.” Clichés also pop up during the increasingly complex plot: “But even if they stood in place, the world around them would not.”

Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1596-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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