What should be dramatic is made dull in this historical novel.

FLYING JENNY

Two brave women battle to live how they choose and become friends in the process.

Set in 1929, this is a story of female friendship and empowerment, a story of self-discovery. In an era when Marlene Dietrich caused a stir for wearing pants, women are trying their hands, for the first time, in male-centric fields. Jenny is a gifted pilot but is not interested in competition and record-breaking, preferring instead to fly when she feels like it and otherwise live her life. When she successfully pulls a stunt no one has tried before—flying under all of New York City’s bridges—another woman-in-a-man’s-world becomes interested in her. Laura is a reporter, fiercely ambitious and willing to follow Jenny to the Midwest in order to get her story. But she has another reason to want to poke around near St. Louis: Her mother is mute on the subject of her father, but Laura has a photograph that proves her mother was in that area when she was young. Laura hopes to find her roots. At first Laura and Jenny clash, but over the course of the novel, as Laura experiences the joys of flying, the two women come to understand one another and to learn from each other. The prose has a tendency to overexplain, in platitudes, who the characters are and how they are feeling. For example, Laura’s bohemian mother lives in the West Village and has an affair with William Carlos Williams; to describe her, Tuohy (The Five O’Clock Follies, 2012) writes, “Free was Evelyn’s favorite word.” For a novel about an exhilarating experience during an exciting era in American history, it tends toward the unimaginative and is often repetitive.

What should be dramatic is made dull in this historical novel.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61775-621-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

THE WINTER GUEST

An 18-year-old Polish girl falls in love, swoons over a first kiss, dreams of marriage—and, oh yes, we are in the middle of the Holocaust.

Jenoff (The Ambassador’s Daughter, 2013, etc.) weaves a tale of fevered teenage love in a time of horrors in the early 1940s, as the Nazis invade Poland and herd Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. A prologue set in 2013, narrated by a resident of the Westchester Senior Center, provides an intriguing setup. A woman and a policeman visit the resident and ask if she came from a small Polish village. Their purpose is unclear until they mention bones recently found there: “And we think you might know something about them.” The book proceeds in the third person, told from the points of view mostly of teenage Helena, who comes upon an injured young Jewish-American soldier, and sometimes of her twin, Ruth, who is not as adventurous as Helena but is very competitive with her. Their father is dead, their mother is dying in a hospital, and they are raising their three younger siblings amid danger and hardship. The romance between Helena and Sam, the soldier, is often conveyed in overheated language that doesn’t sit well with the era’s tragic events: “There had been an intensity to his embrace that said he was barely able to contain himself, that he also wanted more.” Jenoff, clearly on the side of tolerance, slips in a simplified historical framework for the uninformed. But she also feeds stereotypes, having Helena note that Sam has “a slight arch to his nose” and a dark complexion that “would make him suspect as a Jew immediately.” Clichés also pop up during the increasingly complex plot: “But even if they stood in place, the world around them would not.”

Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1596-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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