Friday, January 13, 2012

Great novels are waiting....

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Kirkus Reviews -

Hoffman (The Red Garden, 2011, etc.) births literature from tragedy: the destruction of Jerusalem's Temple, the siege of Masada and the loss of Zion.

This isa feminist tale, a story of strong, intelligent women wedded to destiny by love and sacrifice. Told in four parts, the first comes from Yael, daughter of Yosef bar Elhanan, a SicariiZealot assassin, rejected by her father because of her mother's death in childbirth. It is 70 CE, and the Temple is destroyed. Yael, her father, and anotherSicariiassassin, Jachim ben Simon, and his family flee Jerusalem. Hoffman's research renders the ancient world real as the group treks into Judea's desert, where they encounter Essenes, search for sustenance and burn under the sun. There too Jachim and Yael begin a tragic love affair. At Masada, Yael is sent to work in the dovecote, gathering eggs and fertilizer. She meets Shirah, her daughters, and Revka, who narrates part two. Revka's husband was killed when Romans sacked their village. Later, her daughter was murdered. At Masada, caring for grandsons turned mute by tragedy, Revka worries over her scholarly son-in-law, Yoav, now consumed by vengeance. Aziza, daughter of Shirah, carries the story onward. Born out of wedlock, Aziza grew up in Moab, among the people of the blue tunic. Her passion and curse is that she was raised as a warrior by her foster father. In part four, Shirah tells of her Alexandrian youth, the cherished daughter of a consort of the high priests. Shirah is akeshaphim, a woman of amulets, spells and medicine, and a woman connected to Shechinah, the feminine aspect of God.The women are irretrievably bound to Eleazar ben Ya'ir, Masada's charismatic leader; Amram, Yael's brother; and Yoav, Aziza's companion and protector in battle. The plot is intriguingly complex, with only a single element unresolved.

An enthralling tale rendered with consummate literary skill.





Headhunters by Jo Nesbo

Publishers Weekly –

Nesbø takes a break from his Harry Hole detective series (The Snowman, etc.) with this stellar stand-alone caper. Roger Brown, a British ex-pat comfortably ensconced in Oslo, has developed a reputation as one of the best corporate headhunters in the business, but money problems lead him to use information he gleans from job applicants about valuable art they own. Brown arranges to steal their art works and replace them with clever fakes. When Clas Greve, the former CEO of a major European GPS company, lets slip that he accidentally discovered a long-lost Rubens painting in the apartment he inherited from his aunt, Brown anticipates making his biggest score. Of course, the heist doesn’t go smoothly, and the dizzying reversals of fortune and situations that would be over-the-top in lesser hands make for a delightful roller-coaster ride. Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard fans will be delighted.



Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

Kirkus Reviews -

A Southern gothic narrative that's strong on characters and backwoods atmosphere but undermined by literary affectation.

Though the third novel by Frazier(Thirteen Moons, 2006, etc.) makes occasional reference toThunder Road, it could inspire a movie as gripping as another with Robert Mitchum,The Night of the Hunter,which also finds two small children fleeing from a dangerous man with a murky past.In this novel, set a half-century ago, the children are orphaned by the murder of their mother and are sent to live with her sister, once the beauty of a small Southern town, now squatting on the grounds of an abandoned lodge at the edge of the mountains. The man in pursuit of the children is Bud, their stepfather and likely their mother's murderer, though he was acquitted of the crime. He knows that the children saw somethingand might have something he wants, maybe a lot of money.But they don't talk. Or won't talk. Or can't talk. They're almost feral (and certainly pyromaniacs) as well as mute, discovers Luce, their aunt and now their caretaker, who "didn't even really like the children, much less love them. But she loved Lily [her murdered sister] and would raise the children and not be trash." While generally staying within the minds of the characters, the prose occasionally takes literary flight to jarring effect: "Lifeless as these woods are now, all the blood must flow in summertime, whereas Jesus's blood covers the world every day of the year." Or, in Luce's impressions of a sunset: "Expressed as art, the colors would lay on canvas entirely unnatural and sentimental, and yet they were a genuine manifestation of place many evenings in fall." Frazier's characters aren't as likely to think like that as the novelist is.When he tempers his tendency toward filigree and lets his bare-boned, hard-boiled plot progress, the novel packs a devastating punch.

Where his debut (Cold Mountain, 1997) won the literary lottery as an award-winning popular blockbuster, this suggests that Frazier is more than a one-hit wonder.

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