A serious if sometimes-overgrown farm tale.

ADDLANDS

Piety, pugnacity, and secrets shape the lives of a rural Welsh family across 70 years.

Bullough’s fourth novel and first published in the United States is mainly centered on Oliver, who is born in 1941 to Idris and Etty, two homesteaders whose lives appear to be simply circumscribed by their farm and church. As Oliver grows older, though, problems emerge: Idris struggles to keep the farm solvent, his estranged brother has his eye on the property, and Oliver’s youthful interest in boxing expands to a more wide-ranging interest in fisticuffs. Past secrets come up, too—Idris’ grim, no-nonsense demeanor stems from the agonies of his service in World War I, and there’s a secret about Oliver’s past that Etty has hidden as well. As Oliver grows older and becomes a father himself, Bullough means to explore the ways that tensions are passed from one generation to the next. At times that message is communicated opaquely, though. Bullough’s consistent use of Welsh dialect is at once colorful and something of a stumbling block: “sclem,” “mawn,” “mimmockin,” “pwntrel,” “lattermath,” and “addlands” itself, the edge of a ploughland. (Bullough’s website has a glossary.) And the overall fecundity of the prose—Bullough delivers plenty of longueurs about the landscape—can swallow up his characters’ tensions. But as progress stumbles on—church buildings are torn down in 1996, livestock succumbs to foot-and-mouth in 2001—Etty’s and Oliver’s sheer endurance is plainspoken and admirable, even if that endurance has an ironic cast. When Oliver is told that his son’s mother (a disappointingly underdrawn character) has written an important work of “post-pastoral poetry,” Oliver retorts: “Post-pastoral? We in’t done yet.”

A serious if sometimes-overgrown farm tale.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9872-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...

WITHOUT FAIL

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

CODE NAME HÉLÈNE

A historical novel explores the intersection of love and war in the life of Australian-born World War II heroine Nancy Grace Augusta Wake.

Lawhon’s (I Was Anastasia, 2018, etc.) carefully researched, lively historical novels tend to be founded on a strategic chronological gambit, whether it’s the suspenseful countdown to the landing of the Hindenberg or the tale of a Romanov princess told backward and forward at once. In her fourth novel, she splits the story of the amazing Nancy Wake, woman of many aliases, into two interwoven strands, both told in first-person present. One begins on Feb. 29th, 1944, when Wake, code-named Hélène by the British Special Operations Executive, parachutes into Vichy-controlled France to aid the troops of the Resistance, working with comrades “Hubert” and “Denden”—two of many vividly drawn supporting characters. “I wake just before dawn with a full bladder and the uncomfortable realization that I am surrounded on all sides by two hundred sex-starved Frenchmen,” she says. The second strand starts eight years earlier in Paris, where Wake is launching a career as a freelance journalist, covering early stories of the Nazi rise and learning to drink with the hardcore journos, her purse-pooch Picon in her lap. Though she claims the dog “will be the great love of [her] life,” she is about to meet the hunky Marseille-based industrialist Henri Fiocca, whose dashing courtship involves French 75 cocktails, unexpected appearances, and a drawn-out seduction. As always when going into battle, even the ones with guns and grenades, Nancy says “I wear my favorite armor…red lipstick.” Both strands offer plenty of fireworks and heroism as they converge to explain all. The author begs forgiveness in an informative afterword for all the drinking and swearing. Hey! No apologies necessary!

A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54468-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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