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THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN

Although Kateryn’s studiousness makes for some dull reading, the pace picks up as her intellect becomes her greatest...

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By pondering the mistakes of her predecessors, Kateryn Parr, sixth wife of King Henry VIII, manages to keep her head.

Gregory, who has written extensively about the Tudors and other British dynasties, now turns her attention to the end of Henry’s reign. The king, though grotesquely obese and suffering from gout and a suppurating leg wound, still fancies himself the warrior, huntsman, and seducer he was in his youth. Kateryn Parr, a widow at 31, is commanded shortly after her husband’s death to come to court, where Henry immediately makes his matrimonial intentions clear. Although she loves Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, who died giving birth to Henry’s heir, Prince Edward, Kateryn knows she has no choice but to marry Henry. As consort, Kateryn strives to avoid, by word or deed, any indication she is other than Henry’s loving helpmeet. Although well-aware that none of his other wives had any control over his mercurial whims—not even best-beloved Jane, who died alone while Henry was off hunting—Kateryn is not planning on providing any ammunition to those who would see her replaced, like the love letter that led to Katherine Howard’s execution or the arrogance that made Anne Boleyn a target. She concentrates on studying and promoting her pet projects, advocating for Scriptures in English and supporting the Protestant Reformation, while appearing never to overtly disagree with the growing faction hoping to restore papism. With a male heir in place, both Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth are relegitimized thanks to Parr. However, she is warned, by Thomas and others, that if Henry wants her gone, no amount of discretion can save her life. Gregory puts readers at the scene with visceral details like the annoying sounds Henry makes while gorging himself and the smell of his never-healing leg that seeps into Kateryn’s dreams.

Although Kateryn’s studiousness makes for some dull reading, the pace picks up as her intellect becomes her greatest liability.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5879-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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THE NIGHTINGALE

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

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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