While in need of polishing and at times lapsing into straight historical note-taking, the novel is a compelling, at times...

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FOUR FLAGS

Von Rosenberg’s debut novel explores war-torn life in Russia, Prussia, Texas and Mexico in the days of Napoleon.

While he’s yet a preteen, Baron Ernst von Rosenberg, considered a Gypsy changeling by his imposing father, takes advantage of a summer break from military school and leaves his Prussian homestead in order to join Russia’s fight against Napoleon. On his way to Moscow, he meets a true Gypsy (who prefers the term Rom) named Yak, who will remain at Ernst’s side as a near-brother through all adventures. Ernst is drafted into the Russian military and Yak volunteers. Playing drum and bugle for the troops, the boys have a front-row seat to the vivid horrors of war. While Ernst briefly describes his reactions, it’s hard to get a feel for any true emotional toll it takes on him. Ernst and Yak both return to the von Rosenberg estate, Eckitten, from where they are soon summoned to fight with the Prussian military once again against Napoleon. Field Marshal Blucher, having received word of the boys’ valor in Russia, enlists the two as right-hand men and confidants. Following the conclusion of the disheartening gore known as Waterloo, the boys enjoy a respite at Eckitten that nears normal adolescence. Soon enough, the pair travel to America, where Ernst determines to find a dreamland less subjected to politics, war and bloodshed. While taking part in a mission meant to foment revolution in Texas (then under intransient ownership), the boys are captured and hauled to Mexico. Through a combination of crafty escapes, chance meeting and luck (benevolent and otherwise), Ernst finds himself in a precarious position. In the face of circumstances that would separate many men from their noble bearings, this “Little Baron” remains brave and finds comfort in memories of his many expeditions. Von Rosenberg’s first novel hinges on rather fantastical encounters, but it does so while acknowledging the importance of a good story—for surviving long nights during battle and for conveying history.

While in need of polishing and at times lapsing into straight historical note-taking, the novel is a compelling, at times humorous, means of experiencing important checkpoints in history.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2009

ISBN: 978-1449025755

Page Count: 624

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2010

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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