Delightful fun with a surprisingly warm heart.

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SHOOTING GENJI

In this comic novel, a front-runner for gangsters leaves New York for Hollywood, where he becomes involved in filming a 1,000-year-old Japanese book.

Following the 1929 stock market crash, Jean-Yves LeFouet, the French-Canadian who narrates this engaging tale, figures it’s time to leave town: His boss, who was involved in a shady bunco scam, has just been thrown out of a high window by angry investors. Scamming isn’t Jean-Yves’ preference; “something of a drifter,” he’s fallen into jobs like rumrunning. “I love books and reading and the life of the mind and all that, but smuggling booze pays considerably better,” he says. So when he high-tails it for California, it’s not long before he gets a job running errands, caddying and chauffeuring for a small-time film producer. Englishman Charles Blaine Granyer (“Chilblain” to Cambridge pals) wants to adapt The Tale of Genji, written by Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century, into an erotic film. Jean-Yves juggles his job, his growing interest in a lovely haiku-writing bookseller and various underworld intrusions—including the return of “Big Department,” the quarter-ton, 6-foot-7-inch overlord of his New York days. Upton Sinclair, Louise Brooks and Fritz Lang all make appearances as well. Voorhees (The World’s Oldest Professions, 2013, etc.) has written what is very much a fun, champagne-fueled romp, but the book is well-grounded in realistic details and offers many thoughtful, witty observations from poetry-loving Jean-Yves. His experience with Wall Street leads him to some prescient conclusions: “[E]very last one of these guys is working some scheme….They call themselves investment bankers, traders, financial intermediaries, brokers, market makers. Unmakers is more like it.” Contemplating Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach,” Jean-Yves concludes that “the world is ignorant and violent but that we have one salvation before us, which is to hold tight the people we love and to be true to them.” A satisfying conclusion draws it all together.

Delightful fun with a surprisingly warm heart.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 231

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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