Former political correspondent Vaughan makes an impressive debut with this savvy, propulsive courtroom drama.

ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL

A handsome British politician—also the prime minister’s oldest, closest friend—finds himself on trial for rape.

Sophie Whitehouse adores her husband, James, a junior minister in the British Home Office. Watching him leave with their son and daughter one Friday morning, “she feels a stab of love so fierce she pauses on the stairs just to drink in the tableau of the three of them together." But James is uncharacteristically late coming home that night, arriving only to confess—in advance of the tabloid headlines—that he’s had an affair with his assistant, Olivia. That would have been enough to shatter Sophie’s world, but 11 days later, he’s arrested; Olivia has filed charges of rape. James’ trial brings together two formidable female barristers, one of them Kate Woodcroft, “a highly experienced specialist in prosecuting sexual crimes; forty-one years old; divorced; single; and childless,” and for the defense, Angela Regan, just as determined to see James go free as Kate is to see him found guilty. And both women know this depends far less on the truth than on their adversarial and persuasive skills. As the trial proceeds, seen alternately from Kate’s, Sophie’s, and James’ points of view, a second storyline unfolds in the early 1990s featuring a character named Holly. Holly is studying English at Oxford, as was Sophie; James is there, too, and his friend Tom, the future prime minister. All of them are involved in a nasty series of events that is not revealed until the end of the book. When the secrets finally come out, there are a few jarring details, but the momentum of the story thunders over them. Because the author leaves room for readers to consider for themselves the issues of consent and intent in rape, particularly in partner rape, this novel is a strong choice for book clubs.

Former political correspondent Vaughan makes an impressive debut with this savvy, propulsive courtroom drama.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7216-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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