The pace drags, but Galland’s astute rendering of political intrigue make for an ultimately rewarding long march.

CROSSED

A TALE OF THE FOURTH CRUSADE

A holy war is derailed by opportunism and profiteering in this witty chronicle of the Fourth Crusade.

Galland (Revenge of the Rose, 2007, etc.) takes as her narrator a wastrel known only as the Briton, who trails an enemy to Venice intending murder followed by suicide—his own. Instead, he finds himself in the camp of Gregor of Mainz, a saintly German knight who is readying an army with Venetian financing for debarkation to the Holy Land. Unexpectedly, the Briton finds an incentive to live: Jamila, a widowed Saracen princess whom he rescues from the Venetian merchant who kidnapped her. He vows to return her to the Middle East, but the crusaders must first earn their war chest by invading Zara, Venice’s rival across the Adriatic. Loath to fight their fellow Catholics, a splinter group of knights negotiate a peaceable surrender, but Zara is sacked anyway. The Briton, whose ironic perspective is enough to keep us slogging through 600-plus pages, gains entree as a musician to meetings at which Venetians, prelates, Franks and Germans wrangle over strategy. The army is ordered on another detour, to unseat an imperial usurper in Constantinople. The Venetians expect full reimbursement from the new emperor, Alexius, but a delay in payment forces the army to winter in Constantinople. It turns out that Jamila is Jewish. Her late husband’s brother, Samuel, is the patriarch of Constantinople’s Jewish community, and he needs a wife. The Briton and Jamila are in love, but she dutifully agrees to marry Samuel. Alexius and other pretenders to the throne are wiped out by the crusaders’ former ally, Mourtzouphlos. His accession causes an impasse that will nullify the crusade, with tragic consequences for the Eastern Empire and its reluctant Western invaders.

The pace drags, but Galland’s astute rendering of political intrigue make for an ultimately rewarding long march.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-084180-5

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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