A captivating war tale, action-packed and affecting.

BEING LILI

INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY OF WORLD WAR II PARIS

A young American woman gets recruited to spy on the Nazis in occupied Paris during World War II in this historical novel.

After her love, James Billings, is killed in the war, Lillian Jackson is spurred by rage to join the fight and enlists in the Women’s Army Corps. She finds herself in London and is offered a remarkable mission: parachute into Paris and pose as a Frenchwoman from Toulon—she speaks perfectly fluent French—and land a job as a clerk in one of the Nazi offices. She finds one at the German Military Command’s office in the Hotel Majestic, and, equipped with a lighter that is a clandestine camera, she keeps an eye open for any information that will aid the Allies. Her mission is as dangerous as it is difficult—she is now Lili Villon and must pretend to be a native of a country she has never visited, unable to trust anyone. As the Resistance scores more victories and the Germans lose ground in the war, the Nazis hunt ever more hungrily for spies out of a desperation Lili notices: “Their confidence melts a little more each day. From all the shouting and swearing, I can tell their nerves are raw.” Pezdirtz faithfully captures the demoralization of Paris under harsh Nazi rule—the terrible food shortages, the brutal despotism, and the way in which French citizens were pitted against one another. And for all its dramatic excitement thrillingly conveyed, there is also a tenderly poignant love story, as feelings burgeon between Lili and her French handler, Henri Marnier, a doctor suffering from heartbreak as well. The author doesn’t cover any fresh literary territory—the novel fits neatly into a well-worn genre and flirts with the predictably formulaic. Nonetheless, the story is both historically astute and moving as well as briskly paced with a surfeit of intrigue.

A captivating war tale, action-packed and affecting.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-955656-11-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Little Creek Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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Who tells your story? Williams illuminates why women needed to be in the room where, and when, it’s written.

THE DICTIONARY OF LOST WORDS

The Herculean efforts required to assemble the Oxford English Dictionary are retold, this time from a fictionalized, distaff point of view, in Williams’ debut novel.

Esme Nicoll, the motherless young daughter of a lexicographer working in the Scriptorium—in reality, a garden shed in Oxford where a team led by James Murray, one of the OED’s editors, toiled—accompanies her father to work frequently. The rigor and passion with which the project is managed is apparent to the sensitive and curious Esme, as is the fact that the editorial team of men labors under the influence of Victorian-era mores. Esme begins a clandestine operation to rescue words which have been overlooked or intentionally omitted from the epic dictionary. Her childhood undertaking becomes a lifelong endeavor, and her efforts to validate the words which flew under the (not yet invented) radar of the OED gatekeepers gain traction at the same time the women’s suffrage movement fructifies in England. The looming specter of World War I lends tension to Esme’s personal saga while a disparate cast of secondary characters adds pathos and depth. Underlying this panoramic account are lexicographical and philosophical interrogatives: Who owns language, does language reflect or affect, who chooses what is appropriate, why is one meaning worthier than another, what happens when a word mutates in meaning? (For example, the talismanic word first salvaged by Esme, bondmaid, pops up with capricious irregularity and amorphous meaning throughout the lengthy narrative.) Williams provides readers with detailed background and biographical information pointing to extensive research about the OED and its editors, many of whom appear as characters in Esme’s life. The result is a satisfying amalgam of truth and historical fiction.

Who tells your story? Williams illuminates why women needed to be in the room where, and when, it’s written.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-16019-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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