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BAND OF ANGELS

Warren, Pulitzer prize winner, erratic genius, poet, philosopher, novelist, short story writer, has written a provocative, at times brilliant book, which attacks from a different angle, the always moot subject of miscegenation and its aftermath. Kentucky and Louisiana, spanning the pre-Civil War and Reconstruction years, once again provide a background. Manty Starr, only child of a "widowed" plantation owner, is now spoiled and cherished, now rejected. A stormy interlude at a school above the line fires her with abolitionist philosophy, which her father pushes aside. Then, at her father's grave, Manty learns that she is his chattel, child of a slave, subject to seizure for his debts. The balance of the book is her own tragic tale of a lifelong search for freedom, again and again with her grasp. But manumission papers prove insufficient to free her spirit. Escape from Hamish, the good man who had given her protection, is not the answer. The tie with Shaddy, grizzled old Negro whom her father had sold when he threatened her childhood security; with Seth Parton, twisted fanatic who would not allow himself to love her; with Rau-ru, free slave plantation manager, linked with old Hamish' unsavory past; with Tobias, northerner, trying to escape the net of his father's power, by taking over New Orleans' Freedman's Bureau all played their part in Manty's search for a way of life. She could not escape the fears and memories and suspicions of her past. Tobias, knowing- she is led to believe- her guilty secret, loves And marries her. But their life together, as he spirals downward, is her constant cross. It takes 25 years before they learn that freedom lies within themselves. The book is uneven in development, often confused in conveying the underlying philosophy. But when the words are found and the meaning comes through, the reader finds reward. The moods and passions of a tortured era provide parallel backgrounds; now and again rare beauty comes alive in poetic passages. As September Literary Guild selection, many of the hurdles will be taken.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1955

ISBN: 0807119466

Page Count: 396

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1955

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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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