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THE LAST HOURS IN PARIS

A vivid exposé of war and its dislocations.

This World War II saga explores issues of parenthood, justice, and retribution.

Druart’s second novel unfolds in two timelines, taking place in the 1940s and 1960s. At the book’s outset, in 1963, Élise has been living in apparent exile from her Paris roots, in a remote Breton village with a mysterious old woman named Soizic. Joséphine, Élise’s 18-year-old daughter, unearths her birth certificate and learns what her mother had postponed telling her: A man with a German surname is her father, not, as she had been told, her mother’s fiance who died fighting for France. Not understanding that her parentage was not only a source of disgrace, but of danger, Joséphine is angered by the deception and vows to track down her father. By 1944, Élise, her mother, and sister have endured four years of Nazi occupation. The way in which Paris has been devastated on so many fronts is viscerally evoked. Élise is part of a clandestine operation that arranges passage to Switzerland for Jewish children. At a bookshop, Élise meets Sébastian, a bilingual German soldier whose mother was French and who, with the glaring exception of his uniform, can pass as French. Sébastian finds the duties of his posting repugnant—acting as interpreter during Gestapo interrogation sessions and translating denunciation letters in which Parisians turn in their Jewish neighbors. Sébastian interferes when French police harass Élise in the bookshop, where he is an unwelcome customer. He takes escalating risks to win Élise’s trust and, ultimately, her love—rescuing her from the Gestapo and helping to save several children from deportation. Joséphine’s journey of discovery uncovers a tragedy of errors. Sébastian and Élise seem too innocent—unconvincingly so—to realize the depths of depravity into which both occupiers and occupied can sink. Their misplaced optimism will have disastrous consequences for each. But although Sébastian’s complexity will emerge only later, these characters command sympathy, to the point that readers will be exasperated by their missteps.

A vivid exposé of war and its dislocations.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-3521-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE FAMILIAR

Lush, gorgeous, precise language and propulsive plotting sweep readers into a story as intelligent as it is atmospheric.

In 16th-century Madrid, a crypto-Jew with a talent for casting spells tries to steer clear of the Inquisition.

Luzia Cotado, a scullion and an orphan, has secrets to keep: “It was a game she and her mother had played, saying one thing and thinking another, the bits and pieces of Hebrew handed down like chipped plates.” Also handed down are “refranes”—proverbs—in “not quite Spanish, just as Luzia was not quite Spanish.” When Luzia sings the refranes, they take on power. “Aboltar cazal, aboltar mazal” (“A change of scene, a change of fortune”) can mend a torn gown or turn burnt bread into a perfect loaf; “Quien no risica, no rosica” (“Whoever doesn’t laugh, doesn’t bloom”) can summon a riot of foliage in the depths of winter. The Inquisition hangs over the story like Chekhov’s famous gun on the wall. When Luzia’s employer catches her using magic, the ambitions of both mistress and servant catapult her into fame and danger. A new, even more ambitious patron instructs his supernatural servant, Guillén Santángel, to train Luzia for a magical contest. Santángel, not Luzia, is the familiar of the title; he has been tricked into trading his freedom and luck to his master’s family in exchange for something he no longer craves but can’t give up. The novel comes up against an issue common in fantasy fiction: Why don’t the characters just use their magic to solve all their problems? Bardugo has clearly given it some thought, but her solutions aren’t quite convincing, especially toward the end of the book. These small faults would be harder to forgive if she weren’t such a beautiful writer. Part fairy tale, part political thriller, part romance, the novel unfolds like a winter tree bursting into unnatural bloom in response to one of Luzia’s refranes, as she and Santángel learn about power, trust, betrayal, and love.

Lush, gorgeous, precise language and propulsive plotting sweep readers into a story as intelligent as it is atmospheric.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250884251

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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