A suspenseful, convincing account of the hardships that Jews and refugees faced in a terrible war.


The Dragontail Buttonhole

Curtis’ debut novel tells of a family’s flight through Europe, moments ahead of the Nazi war machine. 

This story is semiautobiographical—or at least one of the characters is. Curtis’ alter ego, the infant Pavel Kohut, is safely born to a successful family of clothiers and the “bourgeois life of servants, fashions, and Prague’s social whirl” but soon finds himself in peril. His father, Willy, an importer of British textiles and an unapologetic Anglophile, is arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion of espionage. It’s 1939, and the Nazis have marched into Czechoslovakia unopposed. Friends become collaborators, Willy’s shop is appropriated, and Willy is beaten in prison until he appears to himself “a humiliated, disgusting wreck.” Sophie, Pavel’s mother, must prostrate herself before one sinister bureaucracy after another to try to learn her husband’s whereabouts, even enduring blackmail and rape (“the emotional damage of giving herself to this swine would haunt her forever”). When she does eventually track Willy down in Pankrác Prison, shut in with a corpse, she and her husband face the joint task of evading the Nazis and ferrying their young son to safety somewhere in the unoccupied West. Their flight brings them new identities, treacherous comrades, and further degradation. Curtis could have made his book a by-the-numbers thriller, but it’s too unblinkingly realistic to work as a potboiler. This is a serious novel about the most serious things in life; as Willy and Sophie travel farther from their home, increasingly stripped of their possessions, their senses of self at sea, they must continually re-evaluate who they are and what matters in their lives. Curtis is exceptionally good at depicting the strain and fractures of a marriage under constant violation from the outside, and both Willy and Sophie evolve and change convincingly through the book. This is a book to be read in sobriety and one that will leave its readers more sober still.

A suspenseful, convincing account of the hardships that Jews and refugees faced in a terrible war.  

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944540-14-2

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Sordelet Ink

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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