A beautiful tale that weakens when it returns to Lily’s life and the words of the woman whose identity she has assumed.

THE IMPOSTER BRIDE

Richler’s glimpse into the complicated lives of members of a Canadian Jewish family following the end of World War II provides a retrospective of a bygone culture forever colored by a mystery that shapes the future of a young girl.

Lily Azerov Kramer came to Canada to marry Sol Kramer but ended up with his brother, Nathan, after Sol refused to go through with the nuptials. At the wedding, Sol meets Elka, the daughter of a woman who claims to have a cousin with the same name as Lily. As it turns out, Elka’s mother is right to be suspicious of Lily, since the new bride has appropriated the identity of a dead woman, along with her diary and an uncut gemstone she carried. Years later, Sol and Elka are married, and Lily has run off and left Nathan to raise their little girl. Ruth, who does not remember her mother and has no sense of who she really might be, studies Yiddish at school and makes friends with neighborhood children but finds herself longing for a connection to her mother. That connection grows out of an unexpected place; one day Ruth receives a package that contains a cryptic note and a rock. That rock is followed by others and leads Ruth to more closely examine the relationship she has with her own identity. Taking down the diary Lily has left behind, she begins to read it, thinking she is on track to find her mother, but she’s really reading the words of the dead Lily, who is as much of a stranger to her as her own mother. Richler infuses her work with iconic images from the era she covers, painting a rich image of the Canadian Jewish community, their customs and family relationships, in a past century. Strong imagery and interesting characters populate the novel, but the story slips when it moves to Lily’s point of view.

A beautiful tale that weakens when it returns to Lily’s life and the words of the woman whose identity she has assumed.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-01006-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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