While not all the pieces are of equal quality, the collection as a whole is further proof that its daring, protean author’s...

DAVID GOLDER, THE BALL, SNOW IN AUTUMN, THE COURILOF AFFAIR

Four works of fiction, three available in English for the first time, by the Russo-French author and Auschwitz victim whose fame was resurrected with the long-lost Suite Française (2006).

The appealing Snow in Autumn, a poignant portrait of often unappreciated devotion in a topsy-turvy world, concerns Tatiana, an old nanny who has worked for rich Russian landowners her entire life. The revolution forces the family to flee; Tatiana follows them to Paris, for they are her people; her dead husband and child barely rate a mention. Less appealing is The Ball, which concerns the plan of an unpleasant, nouveau-riche Parisian couple to launch themselves into society through a ball. Their scheme is foiled by their mistreated 14-year-old daughter, who destroys the invitations, but the destruction is rather contrived. David Golder is the novella that made Némirovsky famous. The eponymous Golder is an old, wealthy oil speculator, an odious Russian Jew transplanted to Paris. After rejecting his longtime partner’s plea for help and driving him to suicide, he joins his family, loathsome parasites, in Biarritz. The story pulses with a passionate misanthropy, tinged with anti-Semitism (an assimilated Jew, Némirovsky eventually converted to Catholicism). It’s crude, yes, but forceful and memorable. Finally there is The Courilof Affair. Of particular interest in our terror-sensitive times, it’s the memoir of a former revolutionary terrorist, now disenchanted. Logna, the son of Russian terrorists, is raised in Switzerland. In 1903, the young man is sent to St. Petersburg to assassinate Courilof, the brutal Minister of Education. Logna infiltrates the household by posing as a doctor (Courilof has liver cancer). In a variation on the Stockholm Syndrome, the terrorist softens towards his enemy, for the Minister has endearing qualities. Replete with ironies, this is the standout work.

While not all the pieces are of equal quality, the collection as a whole is further proof that its daring, protean author’s wretched death was indeed a loss to literature.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-307-26708-5

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Everyman’s Library

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

Did you like this book?

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more