A rousing tale of ambition and love.

LADY CLEMENTINE

Determined to support her husband in his political work through two world wars, Clementine Churchill becomes a powerful role model for women.

Benedict (The Only Woman in the Room, 2019, etc.) continues her series of historical novels based on the lives of influential women too often overlooked. The children of neglectful mothers, both Clemmie and Winston Churchill are immediately drawn to each other. Once married, they seek security in their marriage, not only producing five children, but also charting together Winston’s phenomenal career. Cat and Pug, as Clemmie and Winston affectionately called one another, navigate nearly every political crisis together. On the homefront, Clemmie must face down dangers of a more domestic sort, too, including managing houses on shoestring budgets and defending her husband from angry suffragists wielding whips and jealous women vying for his affections. Keeping Clemmie by his side helps the notoriously brusque Winston navigate stormy domestic and international waters, from the disasters of the WWI campaign in the Dardanelles to the heights of his service as prime minister defeating Hitler. Throughout it all, as half of a power couple, Clemmie faces criticism from her own friends and sister for the unwomanly nature of her work. Indeed, she questions her own fitness as a mother, as she finds more passion in her work than in raising her children. Benedict capitalizes on the Churchills’ long, storied lives to generate a fast-paced narrative: Gallipoli leads to Winston’s stint on the front lines of WWI swiftly followed by 2-year-old Marigold’s death, Winston’s campaign against the Nazis, and finally his triumphant return to the House of Commons. The thrilling ride is marred only by repetitive scenes of an impassioned Winston lashing out at Clemmie, whose stern looks immediately remind her Pug to take better care of his Cat.

A rousing tale of ambition and love.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6690-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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

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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

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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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