A stylish reiteration of a sad, oft-told tale.

ANOTHER SIDE OF PARADISE

Gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s side of her less-than-paradisiacal love affair with F. Scott Fitzgerald during the last three years of his life.

Koslow’s portrayal begins with Sheilah’s refusing to accept the fact that Scott has just died. Flashbacks form the rest of the novel, narrated by Sheilah. Born to a poor Jewish family in London, Sheilah (nee Lily Shiel) is consigned to an orphanage by a mother unable to care for her, but she eventually attains enough respectability to attract upper-class suitors. She marries the much older John Graham Gillam, who is more mentor than husband—they will divorce amicably—and with his blessing achieves a measure of acclaim on the London stage before journeying to America to pursue a career in journalism. Her penchant for fluff pieces lends itself perfectly to gossip, and soon Sheilah’s in Hollywood, challenging Louella Parsons and Hedda Hoper. The story of Sheilah and Scott’s instant chemistry and their on-again, off-again, but always intense liaison is told with taste and sympathy for these deeply flawed characters: Scott, whose best intentions are always derailed by his frequent tumbles off the wagon, and Sheilah, who grows increasingly weary of concealing her déclassé origins, real name, and Jewishness. She’s not entirely reassured when Scott points out that most of Hollywood’s movie moguls are Jewish and that the majority of movie stars have what he refers to as a “nom de guerre.” As Scott tries to improve on Sheilah’s education with a Western canon reading list, she acts as his personal manager, remediating the chaotic aftermath of his drinking bouts. Scott's bad luck as a screenwriter is entertainingly depicted as he's fired from such iconic films as Gone with the Wind (despite Sheilah’s help with visualizing the character of Scarlett) and The Women. Koslow’s writing is vibrant and colorful, and the denizens of Scott’s world are ably summed up in a few pithy swipes: “In 1935, Dorothy [Parker] was a wicked, eyelash-batting pixie willing to catapult into any conversation.”

A stylish reiteration of a sad, oft-told tale.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-269676-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

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. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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