An intriguing but uneven war tale.

THE CENTER OF GRAVITY

In this debut novel set in World War II Europe, readers see courageous people struggling mightily with Nazism and enduring hair-raising experiences.

Brandon delivers two young protagonists—and their tumultuous vectors—Sonne Becker and Rainer von Bauchelle. The Beckers live in Berlin and hate the Nazi movement. The von Bauchelles live in Colmar, Alsace. They, too, are good people, and the teenage Rainer’s best friend is a Jew, Josef Taffel. Then Germany goes to war; Sonne’s father is conscripted; and the Nazis move into Colmar. After Rainer graduates from the University of Strasbourg with a degree in art history and restoration, he is a rising academic star who gets conscripted by the Nazis for his expertise. Meanwhile, Sonne is sent to the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s fortress, first as a food taster (Der Führer fears being poisoned). Later, because she is a beautiful specimen of Aryan womanhood, she is subjected to a forced artificial insemination. With the help of a sympathetic guard, she escapes, winding up at a museum in Konigsberg, where she and Rainer meet and soon plan to flee to America. Brandon’s tale is very bumpy. The prose can be overdone and too writerly, with a surplus of adjectives (“The man, a few inches taller than the others, was handsome in a classic rebellious kind of way, with thick brown hair tousled in rugged abandon about an intense face and the deepest of green eyes. He…saved his slow, lazy smile for Rennie”). But there are some effective scenes. An evening in 1938 with the Beckers and the fatuous, Nazi-loving Hirsch family, for example, is especially well handled. The Hirsches are appropriately arrogant and odious. Readers will also be cheered by the benevolent and heroic people that the protagonists meet along the way. One real historical nugget is the presence of Albert Göring—yes, Hermann’s brother—who in real life rescued as many people as he could and in these pages crosses paths with Sonne and Rainer. But Brandon should have stopped when she was ahead and ended the tale early, with a short and graceful denouement. Instead, the author offers a final reveal that will leave readers rolling their eyes. Even fiction has its limits—or should. 

An intriguing but uneven war tale.

Pub Date: May 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5136-4909-2

Page Count: 317

Publisher: Out Reach Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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