A novel that agrees with Shakespeare that all the world’s a stage.

HERE WE ARE

A sleight-of-hand novel about a seaside British revue in the late 1950s, before everything changed.

Master novelist Swift (Last Orders, 1996, etc.) invites readers to see parallels between the tricks he is pulling and the magic act that is the ostensible subject of his novel. Or is it? As Swift writes of a magician and the assistant to whom he is betrothed, “The act had become a fluid phenomenon, yet full of a thrilling tension. You never knew what might happen next. This in itself became part of the attraction.” And so it is with this slight but charming novel, which opens with two men and a woman, introducing a triangle. The woman is Evie ("first of women”), and the names of the two men keep shifting, as the novel suggests that identities tend to do. One is Jack, the emcee of the show, a song-and-dance man in charge of the pacing of the production. The other is magician Ronnie, who becomes “the Great Pablo” at Jack’s behest. Though the novel seems to introduce Jack as the protagonist, it is Ronnie’s backstory that dominates. Where Jack and Evie had both been pushed toward the stage by showbiz mothers, “Ronnie Deane was a different kettle of fish and as Evie, but only with some persistence, would find out, had had a different introduction to the world of entertainment, and a different kind of mother.” Two of them, in fact, or maybe two different childhoods, as he had been sent to safety during the World War II bombings by an impoverished mother to a more privileged home in the countryside. There, Ronnie became a different boy, with a different destiny, one that would lead him first to Jack and then, at Jack’s behest, to Evie. The bare bones of the plot don’t have much more flesh on them, but the hocus pocus of identity and destiny, how we become who we are and make the choices we do, offers plenty of surprise as well as revelation.<

A novel that agrees with Shakespeare that all the world’s a stage.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65805-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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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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