A mindless series of familiar gyrations, offering readers exactly what they already know.

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THE GRANVILLE AFFAIRE

Scandals and World War II roil the high-born Granville family of Hartley Hall (The Granville Sisters, not reviewed) in British novelist Parker’s latest romantic fluff..

With the outbreak of German aggression in 1939, patriarch Henry Granville commands his brood of five daughters and wife, Liza, to ensconce themselves at the Scottish family seat for the war’s duration. However, the girls are irrepressible: Rosie, the eldest, is unhappily married to Charles, a rich and titled laird; caring for two children and living close to home, she is so impoverished and unfulfilled that she is ripe for an affair. Next in line is feisty debutante Juliet, also miserably married to a landed (homosexual) Scotsman, Cameron, who’s desperate for an heir; shuttling between the high life in London and depressing visits to her mother-in-law at Glenmally, Juliet does discover that she’s pregnant—not by Cameron, but by her dashing married lover, Daniel Lawrence. Louise, at 14, finds out after a visit to Brittany that Grandpa has an illegitimate son, Gaston, who appears to everyone’s horror at Hartley Hall agitating for his rightful position in the family. Moreover, enjoying her burgeoning sexuality, and lack of supervision, Louise is flirting dangerously with a young working-class evacuee from the London blitz, Jack Scovell, who loves—and impregnates—her. During the full-blown crisis of war, both Rosie and Juliet become nurses: Rosie embarks on her satisfying affair with the wounded Freddie, while Juliet proves her mettle to Daniel. And in order for any of these inconveniently adulterous partners to end up together, there has to be plenty of war carnage—the height of bad taste. American lawyer Salton Webb, however, appears as a symbolic savior and woos Rosie, while Louise settles on a more appropriate match, with a doctor, and the Granville family is altogether altered and improved by the war.

A mindless series of familiar gyrations, offering readers exactly what they already know.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2006

ISBN: 0-7278-6303-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2006

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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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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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