Cantor diminishes Margot’s spiritual identity crisis by introducing a predictable office romance plot.

MARGOT

Children’s book author Cantor (The Life of Glass, 2010, etc.) shrinks her high concept—what if Anne Frank’s sister Margot didn’t die at Auschwitz but moved to Philadelphia under an assumed identity—to fit more predictable parameters of women’s fiction.

In 1959, when the movie version of her sister’s diary hits American theaters, Margot is working as a secretary for a firm of Jewish lawyers in Philadelphia. She is 33 years old pretending to be 27 and has taken the name Margie Franklin. Margot seethes with bitterness and guilt: Anne was always the favored younger sister and now her father has published Anne’s not Margot’s diary; Margot was the one carrying on a romance with Peter while hiding in the Amsterdam annex up until the moment Anne caught them just before their arrests; but she loved Anne too and feels responsible for her death; she finds Americans, especially American Jews, naïvely innocent. She tells the reader she is no longer Jewish but secretly lights a Sabbath candle every Friday night. She and Peter used to fantasize they’d start a new life together in Philadelphia after the war, and she keeps looking for him, hoping that perhaps he survived, too. Otherwise, she tries to disappear into American life. She wears long-sleeve sweaters even on hot summer days to cover the numbers on her arm. She lives alone with a cat but occasionally socializes with another secretary. Even less often, she visits her warmhearted sponsor, who loves Margot like a daughter and suspects her past. Margot finds herself falling in love with her boss, Joshua, whose domineering father, Ezra, is a partner in the firm. Joshua is dating Penny, a stereotypical Jewish American Princess and the daughter of Ezra’s partner, but he is clearly attracted to Margot (although Cantor makes it hard to see why anyone would be attracted to her). Then an angry Holocaust survivor asks Joshua to sue her employer for job discrimination, and he enlists Margot’s help.

Cantor diminishes Margot’s spiritual identity crisis by introducing a predictable office romance plot.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59448-643-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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