brilliant, epic, intelligent, and moving.

READ REVIEW

TIDES OF WAR

Pressfield produces an even greater spectacle—and, in its honest, incremental way, an even greater heart-tugger—than in

his acclaimed tale of the battle of Thermopylae, Gates of Fire (1999). Jason, son of Alexicles, lived almost to 92, in the prime of that long life having fought for Athens and been close friend to Socrates. When a grandson asks him whether, of all those he'd known in his life, there had been “one whom memory has driven deepest,” Jason responds immediately: yes, Polemides, the man who assassinated Alcibiades. Thus unfolds the most remarkable of tales, told partly in Jason's own words and partly in the words of the imprisoned and treason-charged soldier Polemides as—over the same few days that Socrates waits to drink the hemlock—he tells Jason the story of the many intertwinings of his own military life, during the “thrice nine years” of the Peloponnesian War, with the life of that bold, brilliant, gifted, immeasurably ambitious leader, Alcibiades. The political complexities between Sparta and Athens, not to mention the cultural competition between them, are handled with a clarity that enlightens and captivates the reader at once—as Polemides becomes a mercy killer in the ghastly Great Plague in Athens early in the war; as Alcibiades all but single-handedly launches the Athenian fleet in its attack on Sicily—only then, when he's recalled on charges of treason, to abandon the fleet (and Polemides) to one of history's most ungodly, cruel, costly defeats; and as the same Alcibiades afterward piles up one glorious naval victory after another in Asia and the Hellespont, returning to Athens in glory only later to be declared, through his enemies' skilled manipulations of the demos, the greatest danger to her. On every page are color, splendor, sorrow, the unforgiving details of battle, daily life, and of the fighter's lot. Unabashedly

brilliant, epic, intelligent, and moving.

Pub Date: April 4, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-49252-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

CILKA'S JOURNEY

In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more