A satisfyingly streamlined World War II thriller.

THE PARIS ARCHITECT

During the Nazi occupation of Paris, an architect devises ingenious hiding places for Jews.

In architect Belfoure’s fiction debut, the architectural and historical details are closely rendered, while the characters are mostly sketchy stereotypes. Depraved Gestapo colonel Schlegal and his torturer lackeys and thuggish henchmen see their main goal as tracking down every last Jew in Paris who has not already been deported to a concentration camp. Meanwhile, Lucien, an opportunistic architect whose opportunities have evaporated since 1940, when the Germans marched into Paris, is desperate for a job—so desperate that when industrialist Manet calls upon him to devise a hiding place for a wealthy Jewish friend, he accepts, since Manet can also offer him a commission to design a factory. While performing his factory assignment (the facility will turn out armaments for the Reich), Lucien meets kindred spirit Herzog, a Wehrmacht officer with a keen appreciation of architectural engineering, who views capturing Jews as an ill-advised distraction from winning the war for Germany. The friendship makes Lucien’s collaboration with the German war effort almost palatable—the money isn’t that good. Bigger payouts come as Manet persuades a reluctant Lucien to keep designing hideouts. His inventive cubbyholes—a seamless door in an ornamental column, a staircase section with an undetectable opening, even a kitchen floor drain—all help Jews evade the ever-tightening net of Schlegal and his crew. However, the pressure on Lucien is mounting. A seemingly foolproof fireplace contained a disastrous fatal flaw. His closest associates—apprentice Alain and mistress Adele—prove to have connections to the Gestapo, and, at Manet’s urging, Lucien has adopted a Jewish orphan, Pierre. The Resistance has taken him for short drives to warn him about the postwar consequences of collaboration, and his wife, Celeste, has left in disgust. Belfoure wastes no time prettying up his strictly workmanlike prose. As the tension increases, the most salient virtue of this effort—the expertly structured plot—emerges. 

A satisfyingly streamlined World War II thriller.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-8431-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

THE UNSEEN

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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