A thorough, sweeping novel with seamless transitions from the real to the imagined.

NAPOLEON IN AMERICA

Evocative and immersive, Selin’s debut historical fiction twists Napoleon’s fate.

The real Napoleon died in 1821 at the age of 51 while in exile on the island of St. Helena. In Selin’s novel, a 51-year-old Napoleon plots and successfully executes an escape, choosing America as his haven. He makes his way aboard a privateer boat to Louisiana, where French expats and Americans alike welcome him with cries of “Vive l’Empereur!” Though enfeebled by his travels, Napoleon hasn’t lost his ambition or hunger for power; soon, he’s traveling around his new country and coming up with schemes every step of the way. International unrest allows him plenty of chances to devise new ways of achieving glory; for Napoleon, strife in France, Mexico, Canada and Texas means opportunity. The novel provides an expansive view of the political landscape, with scenes across the Atlantic effectively displaying ineffective politicians of all bents. The global view is informative, although some geographic jumps dilute the plot’s main—and most entertaining—action, which takes place in America. There, Napoleon proves himself to be a bit obtuse when it comes to social graces (“Napoleon walked through the chandeliered room, uttering words he intended to be pleasant for each lady, but which, for the most part, had the opposite effect”) but somewhat more perceptive about the differences between his former country and his new one. His observations of Americans’ basic optimism and patriotism are astute, yet his impertinence continues to aggravate his companions; for instance, he remarks that America is “a land peopled by greedy merchants.” These vivid quirks and funny faux pas bring levity to a dense, meticulously researched text in which sorting out the many events and characters requires close scrutiny. When the novel turns to scenes of action, rather than conversation, it becomes vigorous, engrossing and remarkably realistic.

A thorough, sweeping novel with seamless transitions from the real to the imagined.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0992127503

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Dry Wall Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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