A rich historical novel of Germans who plotted against Hitler.

TRAITORS FOR THE SAKE OF HUMANITY

A NOVEL OF THE GERMAN RESISTANCE TO HITLER

In Schrader’s historical epic, a group of Germans acts against the Nazi regime.

Germany, 1938. Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party have changed the face of Germany. While many Germans seem to almost worship the new leader, the young Baron Philip von Feldberg is not so sure about the direction the country has taken. “Philip noted the huge Nazi flag flapping before the station and caught sight of the straw swastikas hung on the Christmas tree at the post office. In one of the store windows, someone had placed a photo of Adolf Hitler and adorned it with greens and a candle as if it were the picture of the Virgin or a saint.” Regardless of his feelings for the Führer, Philip is a member of the German General Staff, the group of men who will be in charge of executing the war that Hitler seems to be itching to start. It turns out he isn’t the only Hitler-skeptical member of the General Staff. He soon strikes up a friendship—and more—with an outspoken secretary named Alexandra Mollwitz. There are others who are horrified by the Nazi’s excesses: Marianne Moldenhauer, a fed-up factory worker; Peter Kessler, a disillusioned Gestapo officer; even Alexandra’s boss, Gen. Friedrich Olbricht. But are these Germans willing to betray their government in order to save Germany—and maybe the world—from destruction? Schrader’s prose is spare but fluid, as here when illustrating a camp Marianne attends during her national labor service: “The Duty Leader woke the girls in the barrack with the usual loud ringing of the bell, followed by shouts of ‘Wake up! Wake up!’ A chorus of groans and muttered curses could be heard as the girls rolled out of their bunks, and the everyday chaos of a hundred girls rushing to the showers began.” The author is less adept at handling some of the romantic relationships—they are quickly established and largely uncomplicated—but romance is perhaps not the point of the book. The novel is a deeply researched window into the wartime lives of Germans at odds with Hitler’s regime, and while the story of Operation Valkyrie may be well known, Schrader offers the larger context for the German resistance with admirable depth and detail.

A rich historical novel of Germans who plotted against Hitler.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Cross Seas Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2021

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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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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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