An engrossing and moving war drama with a strong cast of indelible characters.

WHERE IS THE NUMBER?

A World War I novel follows a platoon of British volunteers who eventually fight in the disastrous Battle of the Somme.

The facts in this fictional story are well known to the most casual student of history. World War I—“The Great War”—begins in 1914. In Britain, patriotic young men rush to sign up. They will teach Germany an unforgettable lesson in three or four months. Instead, four years later, an exhausted Europe realizes that there has never been butchery on such a scale, and nowhere so brutally as the 1916 Somme offensive, when the Allies tried to break through a massive trench line. Over 20,000 British troops lost their lives in just the first two hours. But what will really draw readers into Temple-Smith’s (The Story of Elijah, 2005) novel are the vivid sketches of the Brits in the second platoon of the “St. Marylebone Rifles.” There is 2nd Lt. Arnold Snow, considering it his duty to volunteer and acquitting himself well. There is Frank Claybourne, a petty thief who enlists after he accidentally kills a mark. There is Alec Millcross, who sees this war as the ticket to becoming a famous poet. There is Lord Roland Selway, son of the Duke of Dornoch, who rebels against an arranged marriage. Joining them are Fred Quill, retired after an honorable career but wanting one more chance to serve, and Cpl. Seamus O’Malley, whose philosophy embodies whatever profits Seamus O’Malley. There are many more, of course, some who make it back alive and some who don’t. But all are meticulously portrayed. Focus is paramount: Every early chapter is devoted to one of these soldiers and—a fearful symmetry—the last section skillfully reveals how each man lived or died in the carnage. The author’s prose is reserved, traditional—British. His writing style is well suited to the era’s spirit and often elegiac: “Victory in 1918 did not usher in an age of tranquility and comfort, but as far as they could, after their own fashions, at their own stations in life, and with varying degrees of success, these men who remained led reasonably contented lives. They all did their best.” There is no lack of World War I novels, but the audience will find that reading Temple-Smith’s book is both a pleasure and a privilege.

An engrossing and moving war drama with a strong cast of indelible characters.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-910603-68-0

Page Count: 374

Publisher: GWL Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 26

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more