by Philippa Gregory ‧ RELEASE DATE: Dec. 2, 2008
This great doorstop of a romantic tragedy illustrates Gregory’s winning formula: A young woman triumphs despite a hostile...
Gregory (The Other Queen, 2008, etc.) leaves Tudor gowns behind for the Jazz Age in this addictive tale, originally published in the United Kingdom in 1993, of two wounded soldiers and the pervasive cost of war.
The novel begins with Stephen Winters recalling the Flanders fields of World War I, of the deep mud and bits of bodies underfoot, of the unrelenting terror of gunfire. Since his father’s stroke (at the news of favorite son Christopher’s death), Stephen has taken over the law practice, and he finds solace only with Coventry, his mute chauffer and wartime aid. Then he sees Lily Valance singing at the theater and is thunderstruck by the luminous joy of her face and voice—she reminds him of girls before the war, before everything was ruined. He courts her with his wealth, but his advances are rejected; Lily is 17 and in love with the theater’s musical director, Charlie Smith (though devoted to Lily, he refuses to marry her—a war wound has left him impotent). When Lily’s mother dies, Stephen, convinced Lily will cure him of his shell shock, coerces her into wedlock at her most vulnerable. Their honeymoon is a disaster (Stephen is sadistic and controlling), and the marriage continues in this vein when Stephen brings her to live with his mother Muriel, disapproving of the merchant-class theater girl, and his father Rory, upstairs and half-dead. But Lily is bright and resilient, and soon she is singing again professionally (after a fat lip from Stephen). She has Rory up and beginning to speak, and even Muriel begrudgingly admits Lily has an undeniable grace. Their house becomes fashionable with both society mavens and young bohemians—the only one not happy is Stephen, who has become more violent and unpredictable. When they have a little boy, the emotional torment really starts. The only bright spot in Lily’s life is Charlie Smith, who vows to save Lily and her son, if only he’s able before Stephen destroys them all.This great doorstop of a romantic tragedy illustrates Gregory’s winning formula: A young woman triumphs despite a hostile male society.
Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2008
Page Count: 528
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008
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by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 3, 2015
Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.
Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.
In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.
Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015
Page Count: 448
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014
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by Madeline Miller ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2018
Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.
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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
Page Count: 400
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018
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