Disarmingly plainspoken narration brings into sharp relief both individuals and a world in wartime crisis.

WHITE SHADOW

The second novel in Jacobsen’s Ingrid Barrøy trilogy is set during Norway’s World War II occupation by Germany, telescoping the national predicament through the narrow lens of a solitary woman’s experience.

Seasons, representing both change and constancy, are again Jacobsen’s central organizing principle, this time covering not generations but one year. A decade after The Unseen (2020) ended, most inhabitants of Barrøy, an island in a remote archipelago, have scattered. Only Ingrid, now 35, remains to follow an isolated, hand-to-mouth routine. Jacobsen built the earlier novel upon an accumulation of small daily moments, but Norway’s German occupation offers more conventional drama. Germans are stationed on the main island, a hard boat ride away but within Ingrid’s sight. In late autumn she is jolted when bodies in tattered, unrecognizable uniforms mysteriously turn up on Barrøy. One is barely alive. Ingrid nurses him and they become lovers in an intense idyll that can’t last. Days after he escapes (with her help), she awakens in a faraway hospital room with no memory of what happened in the days since their farewell. With her doctor’s help, she recovers shards of memory about a visit from a German officer and local police chief searching for her soldier, who was probably a Russian POW; but she resists remembering too much. Back on Barrøy by early winter, she is joined by her aunt Barbro, who intuits that Ingrid is pregnant. As more memories return, Ingrid worries the father might be one of the men who visited, but what happened with them is discussed only obliquely. This is minimalist fiction with a protagonist of impressive competence—traveling home on a whaler filled with ragged evacuees from Finland and Lapland, Ingrid takes charge of their care, then helps them settle on the main island—but with little interest in revealing herself. And yet Ingrid is a kind of magnet. Her doctor is attracted to her “intuitive” intelligence, as are the whaler’s captain and several youthful evacuees who move to the island to fish and help Ingrid build a new house. Before long, Barrøy's former inhabitants also begin to trickle home, creating new dramas and possibilities.

Disarmingly plainspoken narration brings into sharp relief both individuals and a world in wartime crisis.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77196-403-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Ingeniously structured and so damn entertaining; this novel is as ambitious as its heroines—but it never falls from the sky.

GREAT CIRCLE

The intertwined journeys of an aviatrix born in 1914 and an actress cast to play her a century later.

In a novel twice as long as and an order of magnitude more complex than the well-received Seating Arrangements (2012) and Astonish Me (2014), Shipstead reveals breathtaking range and skill, expertly juggling a multigenerational historical epic and a scandal-soaked Hollywood satire, with scenes playing out on land, at sea, and in the air. "We were both products of vanishment and orphanhood and negligence and airplanes and uncles. She was like me but wasn't. She was uncanny, unknowable except for a few constellations I recognized from my own sky": These are the musings of actress Hadley Baxter. She has been familiar with the story of Marian Graves, an aviatrix who disappeared while trying to circumnavigate the globe, since she was just a little girl—before she became a pop-culture phenomenon, turned into a movie star with a mega-franchise, accidentally destroyed her career, and was given the chance to reinvent herself...by playing Marian in a biopic. The film, Peregrine, is based at least partly on the logbook of Marian's "great circle," which was found wrapped in a life preserver on an ice floe near the South Pole. Shipstead's story begins decades earlier, with the christening of the Josephina Eterna in Glasgow in 1909. The unhappy woman who breaks the bottle on her bow, the laconic captain who takes the ship to sea, the woman he beds onboard, the babies that result from this union—Marian Graves and her twin, Jamie—the uncle who has to raise them when their mother drowns and their father disappears: The destinies of every one of these people, and many more unforgettable characters, intersect in ways that reverberate through a hundred years of story. Whether Shipstead is creating scenes in the Prohibition-era American West, in wartime London, or on a Hollywood movie set, her research is as invisible as it should be, allowing a fully immersive experience.

Ingeniously structured and so damn entertaining; this novel is as ambitious as its heroines—but it never falls from the sky.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65697-5

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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