ONLY TIME WILL TELL

From the Clifton Chronicles series , Vol. 1

The first book in a new series, a family saga called The Clifton Chronicles, slated to cover 100 years.

It’s 1919, and a young woman named Maisie, on a day’s holiday in Weston-super-Mare, England, determines to lose her virginity while her future husband spends the afternoon at a pub.  And so the subsequent birth of her son Harry raises the first of many questions readers will have little difficulty guessing in advance: Who is Harry’s actual father? Harry is told his father died in the Great War, but he’s skeptical. His subsequent story spins out in a series of overlapping narratives that lead to a great deal of overlapping details, otherwise known as padding. At the age of 12, Harry demonstrates a keen mind and sings with a rare quality. His mother, of little means but great determination, thus resolves to enroll him in public school where he will receive a strong education. At school, Harry befriends the loyal Giles Barrington, the son of wealthy Hugo Barrington, who, for reasons apparent to everyone but Harry, remains aloof, uneasy and guarded around Harry, especially when, a few years later, Harry takes an interest in Hugo’s attractive daughter Emma. Eager to see Harry on to Oxford, Maisie opens a tearoom with great success. In a melodramatic turn—like many here, laid on with a trowel, but with little evocation of time and place—someone burns Maisie’s tearoom to the ground. Maisie suspects Hugo as the culprit and proceeds to blackmail him with information about the fate of her husband. The dastardly Hugo responds to her with a double cross laced with abject physical cruelty. Meanwhile, the Second World War looming, Harry and Emma decide to marry. As they stand before the rector, a guest stands and halts the proceedings. The revelation that follows will elicit few gasps from those who weren’t there that day. For all its considerable girth, remarkably thin.  

 

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-53955-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

THE WINTER GUEST

An 18-year-old Polish girl falls in love, swoons over a first kiss, dreams of marriage—and, oh yes, we are in the middle of the Holocaust.

Jenoff (The Ambassador’s Daughter, 2013, etc.) weaves a tale of fevered teenage love in a time of horrors in the early 1940s, as the Nazis invade Poland and herd Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. A prologue set in 2013, narrated by a resident of the Westchester Senior Center, provides an intriguing setup. A woman and a policeman visit the resident and ask if she came from a small Polish village. Their purpose is unclear until they mention bones recently found there: “And we think you might know something about them.” The book proceeds in the third person, told from the points of view mostly of teenage Helena, who comes upon an injured young Jewish-American soldier, and sometimes of her twin, Ruth, who is not as adventurous as Helena but is very competitive with her. Their father is dead, their mother is dying in a hospital, and they are raising their three younger siblings amid danger and hardship. The romance between Helena and Sam, the soldier, is often conveyed in overheated language that doesn’t sit well with the era’s tragic events: “There had been an intensity to his embrace that said he was barely able to contain himself, that he also wanted more.” Jenoff, clearly on the side of tolerance, slips in a simplified historical framework for the uninformed. But she also feeds stereotypes, having Helena note that Sam has “a slight arch to his nose” and a dark complexion that “would make him suspect as a Jew immediately.” Clichés also pop up during the increasingly complex plot: “But even if they stood in place, the world around them would not.”

Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1596-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more