Cantor has done her research thoroughly to produce another captivating historical novel. Excellent writing, unusual...


Moving seamlessly between Austria in 1938 and Los Angeles in 1989, this novel connects a grim history to a more hopeful present.

In Austria, the Nazis begin to roust Jews from positions, homes, and safety. Kristoff, an 18-year-old German, finds an apprenticeship with Frederick Faber, a Jewish engraver of stamps and documents. Frederick, his wife, and their two daughters, 13-year-old Miriam and 17-year-old Elena, become the family Kristoff never had. He comes to respect their traditions and forms a special bond with Elena, who, unbeknownst to her father, secretly practices engraving with Kristoff, a skill they use to forge papers to get Jews to safer countries. In present-day LA, Katie Nelson, soon to be divorced, is cleaning her apartment and finds the stamp collection her father passed along to her when he went into a home for Alzheimer's care. Determined to find something of value in his collection—her father always said he hoped to find a “gem”—she consults Benjamin Grossman, a philatelist, who unearths an unopened letter with a unique Austrian stamp. Benjamin keeps Katie apprised of the results of his research. They discover that Frederick Faber engraved the stamp and that it is addressed to one of his daughters, Fraulein Faber, with no first name. Benjamin finds the former Fraulein Faber in Cardiff, Wales, and he plans a trip to visit her, hoping to unravel the mystery of the stamp in which a tiny symbol is engraved. He offers Katie a ticket—he has lots of free miles—to accompany him. They hope to return home with at least a story about the stamp for her father to enjoy before his memory is totally gone. The past gives up its secrets reluctantly but give them up it does. Katie’s father truly has found his gem, and eventually Katie recognizes hers. Cantor (The Hours Count, 2015, etc.) has mixed historical background with fictional characters for a believable, engaging tale in which the past indeed reconciles with the present.

Cantor has done her research thoroughly to produce another captivating historical novel. Excellent writing, unusual storytelling, and sympathetic characters make a winning combination.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-18567-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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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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