Disarmingly plainspoken narration brings into sharp relief both individuals and a world in wartime crisis.

WHITE SHADOW

The second novel in Jacobsen’s Ingrid Barrøy trilogy is set during Norway’s World War II occupation by Germany, telescoping the national predicament through the narrow lens of a solitary woman’s experience.

Seasons, representing both change and constancy, are again Jacobsen’s central organizing principle, this time covering not generations but one year. A decade after The Unseen (2020) ended, most inhabitants of Barrøy, an island in a remote archipelago, have scattered. Only Ingrid, now 35, remains to follow an isolated, hand-to-mouth routine. Jacobsen built the earlier novel upon an accumulation of small daily moments, but Norway’s German occupation offers more conventional drama. Germans are stationed on the main island, a hard boat ride away but within Ingrid’s sight. In late autumn she is jolted when bodies in tattered, unrecognizable uniforms mysteriously turn up on Barrøy. One is barely alive. Ingrid nurses him and they become lovers in an intense idyll that can’t last. Days after he escapes (with her help), she awakens in a faraway hospital room with no memory of what happened in the days since their farewell. With her doctor’s help, she recovers shards of memory about a visit from a German officer and local police chief searching for her soldier, who was probably a Russian POW; but she resists remembering too much. Back on Barrøy by early winter, she is joined by her aunt Barbro, who intuits that Ingrid is pregnant. As more memories return, Ingrid worries the father might be one of the men who visited, but what happened with them is discussed only obliquely. This is minimalist fiction with a protagonist of impressive competence—traveling home on a whaler filled with ragged evacuees from Finland and Lapland, Ingrid takes charge of their care, then helps them settle on the main island—but with little interest in revealing herself. And yet Ingrid is a kind of magnet. Her doctor is attracted to her “intuitive” intelligence, as are the whaler’s captain and several youthful evacuees who move to the island to fish and help Ingrid build a new house. Before long, Barrøy's former inhabitants also begin to trickle home, creating new dramas and possibilities.

Disarmingly plainspoken narration brings into sharp relief both individuals and a world in wartime crisis.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77196-403-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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