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A GUARDIAN ANGEL RECALLS

A sly but scorching Dutch masterpiece.

On the eve of the Nazis' attack on Rotterdam and occupation of the Netherlands, a Dutch public prosecutor tries to flee the Germans—and a horrific car accident in which he runs over a 6-year-old girl.

The portly prosecutor, Alberegt, impulsively tosses the body of the girl into a clump of bushes, later learning that she was a Jewish child smuggled out of Czechoslovakia by a wealthy publisher friend of his to save her from the Nazis. The angel of the book's title, who provides a running first-person commentary, pleads with Alberegt to report the death, but the prosecutor is more open to the argument posed by the devil also along for the ride: "If the Germans have bombed Holland and burnt it down to the ground, do you think anybody's going to worry about some kid who got run over?" The Dutch, it seems, will do anything to deny reality, insisting that Hitler has no interest in their neutral nation, and if he did, Dutch forces would take care of the Germans. At the same time, public figures go out of their way to send signals to the Germans that they have nothing against the Führer by prosecuting those who insult him. They're also happy to discriminate against Jews, albeit with twisted logic: "The only way to be accepted by a Jew is to say, Look, of course I'm an anti-Semite like everyone else, but you happen to seem like a decent chap." With its hapless protagonist, acerbic tone, and laughable rumors of war (including German paratroopers disguised as nuns), much of this newly translated 1971 novel by the late Hermans is a comedy of errors. But its scenes of destruction are shattering and surreal. "I've been hit. I've been hit," cries a girl before she falls over and dies and "short bursts of heavenly music permeated the groaning, the cries and screams." With its discussions of art and politics, the book takes on even greater depth.

A sly but scorching Dutch masterpiece.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953861-02-3

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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