Literary readers will prefer Michael Shaara and Shelby Steele, and unliterary ones will want their Newt Gingrich. But...


Action-packed treatment of one of the bloodiest episodes of the Civil War, rendered with all due gruesomeness.

Michael Shaara’s 1974 novel The Killer Angels, writes Peters (The Officers’ Club, 2011, etc.), is the gold standard of fiction about the Battle of Gettysburg, adding that it appeared in a time when regard for the military was low and “citizens had to be reminded that towering heroes wore our country’s uniform.” Or, perhaps better, our country’s, and another country’s, uniforms. Whatever the case, Peters, a former military officer, is more reverentially disposed to the people who fight wars in a time when the culture seems worshipful of armed might. His version of Gettysburg, therefore, is vigorous, decisive, stern and otherwise populated by heroic figures. Regardless of the two authors’ respective attitude toward the business of killing, Peters is both historically accurate and a well-practiced storyteller. He also has a good sense of the language and culture of the time; when Robert E. Lee enters the scene, for instance, Peters’ prose becomes somber and portentous: “Still a mere John Churchill, he had seen to it that new shoes awaited his soldiers along his line of march. But Lee had men who had gone without shoes for months. At Chancellorsville, he had hoped for a Blenheim, but ended with a gory Malplaquet.” When Lee’s counterpart, George Meade, is on stage, Peters’ back-and-forth is snappier, suggesting Meade’s impatience; he even provides Meade with a motivation for success, for “fending off Lee would secure his family’s place in Philadelphia for generations.” Among the many strong points of Peters’ version is his attention to the immigrant players on the battlefield, the Polish and Irish and German soldiers from North and South who fought and died for their version of freedom. Familiar figures—Chamberlain, Longstreet—are here too, but these overlooked characters add depth and diversity to the tale.

Literary readers will prefer Michael Shaara and Shelby Steele, and unliterary ones will want their Newt Gingrich. But Peters’ novel holds up well, and it’s welcome in the vast library of books about the Civil War’s great turning point.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3047-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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