THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE

Sarah Piper, a self-proclaimed modern woman living in London, finds herself living a ghost story in this post–World War I tale.

A temp agency offers Sarah a job with a mysterious, handsome writer, Alistair Gellis, who carries scars from the recent Great War. His postwar passion finds him writing travel books—as dry and academic as he can make them—about various haunted sites in England, but his interest is piqued by the case of a haunted barn in the small village of Waringstoke; a young maidservant hanged herself in her employer’s barn and has been making mischief and threats ever since, most recently terrorizing a local vicar when he is called to perform an exorcism. According to her former employer, Mrs. Clare, Maddy, the ghost, hates men, so if Alistair is to verify the haunting for his next book, Sarah will have to confront the angry spirit. Feeling adrift in her life and intrigued by Alistair’s company, Sarah agrees to the job, embarking on a terrifying journey into the damaged psyche of Maddy Clare. Capable of manipulating her environment and producing hallucinations, Maddy is not resting quietly. Not only must Sarah and Matthew Ryder, Alistair’s tough and war-scarred friend, race to discover the truth behind Maddy’s life and death, they are soon caught up in Maddy’s troubling obsession with Alistair. Through fog, darkness, nightmares and fire, Sarah and Matthew fight to save their friend while also succumbing to their own heated attraction. Along the way, they meet all the mysterious figures one would hope to find in a small English town: the brash new-money aristocrat and his unhappy, beautiful wife; the distrustful gravedigger; the man who watches outside Sarah’s window. And of course, Maddy, the one who connects them all and is either seeking peace—or revenge.     A chilling start gives way to a more predictable ending, but fans of the modern Gothic novel will enjoy filling up a few creepy hours.

 

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-4512-3568-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: New American Library

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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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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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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