Lilting prose, beautifully meted out folklore and historical references, and Hoffman’s deep conviction in her characters...

THE MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES

A ghost wife, a stolen child, wandering eyes, hidden ledgers—and more—bind the 19th-century Jewish community on a paradisiacal island in the West Indies.

To this marvelous mise-en-scène, Hoffman (The Museum of Extraordinary Things, 2014, etc.) adds a historical character: Rachel Manzana Pomié, the Creole mother of impressionist painter Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro. Descended from Spanish and Portuguese Jews who “knew when to depart even when it meant leaving worldly goods behind,” Hoffman’s Rachel nurses a grudge as bitter as the fruit of the apple tree her grandparents toted to the Antilles when they fled France: that her mother, Mme. Pomié, favors the nephew she adopted as a baby over her own child. “Girls were not worth very much in her eyes, especially a disobedient girl.” With her friend Jestine—the mixed-blood child of the family cook—Rachel keeps a lookout for turtle girls (mermaids with shells) and, aping the French fabulist Charles Perrault, chats up the market women for “small miracles common only in our country” to tell when she finally gets to Paris. “My mother didn’t like this sort of talk; people of our faith didn’t believe in past lives or spirits.” Faith leaves Rachel as well when her father arranges a match to a business associate twice her age, who dies, trapping her on the island with seven children; she’s shunned by her synagogue when she falls into bed with a young relative of her late husband who arrives from Paris to settle the books: “The good man and the enchantress. Some people said I was made of molasses; one bite and you couldn’t get enough.” Wearing “haint blue” to chase ghosts won’t bring back the luck she gave away to her old friend Jestine when she needed it. But her youngest, Jacobo, whose sketches and open manner charm even tight-lipped members of the synagogue’s sisterhood, just might.

Lilting prose, beautifully meted out folklore and historical references, and Hoffman’s deep conviction in her characters (especially those “willing to do anything for love”) make reading this “contes du temps passé” a total pleasure.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9359-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 14

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

more