A lively reminder of the perils of marrying kings and princes, however glam the bride.

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THE QUEEN OF SUBTLETIES

British author Dunn, author of seven previous novels, debuts in the US with a lively and contemporary-flavored take on a royal wife who, like Princess Diana, made enemies in high places.

The story of Anne Boleyn, the woman whose love for a King changed the way England worshipped—at a price.—is told in alternate chapters by Anne and Lucy Cornwallis, the King’s confectioner. Anne, a prisoner in the Tower and about to be executed on trumped-up charges of adultery—Henry wants to marry Jane Seymour, hoping she will bear him a son—is writing her memoirs for her daughter, the young Princess Elizabeth. While Anne’s account is somewhat self-serving and defensive, Lucy’s is merely that of an eyewitness to the unfolding events that she sees as she creates elaborate sugar confections for the court’s banquets and festivals. Anne blames Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Spain, for much of her trouble. A devout Catholic, Catherine refused to divorce Henry when he wanted to marry Anne and sire an heir. Initially reluctant to divorce a popular queen and offend Spain, Henry dragged his feet. But using guile and argument, and spending seven years in a legal limbo—she didn’t marry until she was 32—Anne successfully persuaded Henry to act. Defying the pope, he made himself head of the Church and beheaded all those clergy and statesmen, including the famous Thomas More, who opposed him. Anne was triumphant, but not for long. Now, showing little introspection, she has no sorrow for Catherine or for her daughter Princess Mary, but merely recalls her brief happiness and then her downfall. Lucy notes that the people disliked Anne, disapproved of the marriage, and were angry with Henry’s treatment of Catherine. Lucy also recalls, sadly, how she herself fell in love with Mark Smeaton, a court musician, who, in love with Anne, paid dearly for his declaration of affection to her.

A lively reminder of the perils of marrying kings and princes, however glam the bride.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-059157-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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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

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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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