June's Literary Blog
 

A LITERARY BLOG ABOUT BOOKS
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Friday, June 14, 2019

The Huntress

She is known as Die Jägerin. The Huntress. A cold-blooded murderer who, after feeding six Jewish refugee children, slaughters them. In cold blood. And later, after welcoming him into her lakeside home in Poland, she shoots and kills Sebastian Graham, Ian’s younger brother. But, after 1945, Annalise Weber, a.k.a. Lorelei Vogt, considered a minor Nazi war criminal, disappears without a trace. However, that does not deter Ian, a former war correspondence turned hunter of Nazis, from desperately wanting to find her and bring her to justice. Where she turns up… and finally becomes, is the essence of The Huntress Kate Quinn’s ninth novel.

Set in Boston in the early 1950s, with alternate chapters flashing back to Russia and Poland during WWII, this is a complexly woven novel that delves deeply into the mindsets of three equally main protagonists: Ian Graham; Nina Markova, a former member of the Russian Night Witches, an all-female night bombing regiment; and young Jordan McBride, who dreams of being a journalistic photographer. All, each in his, her own way, a hunter. How the lives of these characters entwine together to solve the enigma of de Jägerin – whose character is partially based upon partly based a cruel camp guard at Ravensbruck and Majdanek; and that of a SS Officer’s wife – makes for a fascinating, well-written read.

What I especially like about Kate Quinn’s work is her meticulous research. Her historical novels sparkle with heretofore unknown facts specific to her characters and the era(s) in which they live. She gives full attention to the most minute details while keeping the reader fully engaged, wanting to read, to learn more. For example, who knew there was an all-female regiment of flying bomb squads during World War II? And what their daily, nightly life was like? Or about rusalka and Lorelei folklore; the insidious fresh water lake nymphs who, like mermaids, lure people to their deaths? Or that the wrong ammunition can cause a soft-barreled shotgun to explode? Quinn has the masterful ability to incorporate the most salient facts into her literary fiction, a talent often missing in many of today’s historical novelists.

Quinn, however, can also be a bit heavy-handed. I found Nina’s passages, while interesting enough, sluggish. Bogged down by the drudgery of over-painted descriptions of Russian life, they lacked the spritely cleverness of Jordan’s narratives. Evidence that, perhaps, like any other writer worth her salt with favorite characters, she preferred Jordan and enjoyed writing about her more. I also found a few passages about Ian, while crackling with bits and pieces of droll, often macabre humor, a bit too redundant. And, unfortunately, while she probes Ian’s, Nina’s, and Jordan’s hearts and minds, we do not have the opportunity to read first-hand into those of Annalise/Anna Weber. We see them only through the author’s eyes mirrored in the insights of the other characters. I wanted to know how/why Annalise/Anna became the cold-bloodied murderess – the Huntress – that she was during the war. More than the fact that she was the wife of a Nazi officer who following the party lines of hating Jews… And how/why she later became such a kind, loving, caring, and wise person afterward.

Taking the novel, however, as a whole, these are mere minor objections. They should in no way deter you from reading this soul-searching, important addition to the genre of historical literary fiction. There are one too many enjoying moments of reading and surprises in this page-turner, especially, in the denouement, that should not, cannot be missed. If you are looking for something more stimulating and less mind-numbing than the “standard” poolside/beach read, thenThe Huntress should be in your summer tote bag.

If you are not already a fan  of Kate Quinn, this, one of her finer novels, is guaranteed to make you one!

Enjoy the read!

5:13 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Alternative Truths III: Endgame

On December 2, 2018 I reviewed the short stories of Natalie Dyen, a talented creative writer who (finally) found her literary voice after retirement. She’s been rather prolific as well as profound in her literary endeavors and many of her dystopian tales are published in semi-mainstream magazines. Natalie’s voice, once again, has spoken out in a brilliantly conceived story that appears in an equally brilliant conceived anthology, Alternative Truths III: Endgame, recently released by B Cube Press.

Note: This Literary Blog is about to deviate from bi-partisan neutrality. If what you are about to read upsets or offends you and you opt out as a friend and/or follower… Then so be it.

Outside of the occasional rant on social media and commiserating with my closest friends, I have sat back, seethingly angry at the willful destruction of our Democracy and our country by the hands of the ignorant, misogynistic, racist, narcissistic grifter wannabe dictator/king who currently resides in our White House. Like many of my friends and family, I am totally disgusted and displeased that this administration constantly twists the truth into gaslighting doublespeak and alternative facts. We are, sadly, on the wrong track, barreling at breakneck speed toward a disastrous endgame. This. Must. Change. But I have not yet read anything strong enough that would spark the beginnings of change… Until now.

Endgame, the third in the Alternative Truths series edited by Jess Faraday and Bob Brown, is music to my eyes. It is a volume of dystopian short stories, essays, poetry, and musings written by some of the finest minds in science fiction today. Natalie included. In it, “he” (I refuse to sully my Blog with his name) is unmasked for who and what he really is. No holds barred. These are stories of true justice, redemption, failure, and laughter. They speak truth to power while poking fun. They tease, cajole, pray, commiserate… These are not alternative facts, but very finely, poignantly written alternative truths that speculate about the final endgame of/for this administration that started with our nation’s most disastrous election. Reading any, all of them should, must, will open the blinded eyes and misguided minds of every wayward follower of this faux pas president. As well as those who choose to sit idly by…

Now, while the other entries focus on “him”, Beautocracy, Natalie’s story, cunningly and craftily focuses on what might happen if every woman was forced by a male-dominated society to look a certain “perfect” way. It follows young Pamela who does not live up to accepted norms of beauty. She hides her face behind scarves, wearing “high heels to keep a low profile” to avoid the “streetcleaners” who prowl for “beasties” like her.

While other women around her submit to plastic surgery, Pamela rebuffs mutilating her body simply to look like everybody else; to pretend to be something else that she is not. She is refused jobs because of her looks; she is attacked because of her looks. She is a pariah of society. Because of her looks. When she finally seeks help from her sister, a member of the secret resistance movement, Pamela finds it in a twisted, ironic sense of betrayal.

An ending that I did not see coming, even with all the carefully subtly placed telics in the story. Natalie, by the way, is the mistress of expertly placed “tells”. As well as well-crafted dénouement resolutions. Beautocracy,  folks, is Natalie Zellat Dyen, at her best… Once again writing dystopian drama reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale , Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone,  and the movies of M. Night Shyamalan.

Beautocracy, whose themes alternative truth and implications far too closely mirror the realities of our time, is the perfect placement, the perfect counterbalance to the other equally moving Endgame stories. Which should, must be read by anyone and everybody who, like Natalie and her Endgame fellow writers care deeply about our country. Who hope for, no… DEMAND a path toward a brighter future endgame than the one we are on now.

Enjoy the read!

à Please note that a significant portion of the proceeds from the sales of Endgame are donated by the editors to the ACLU. Many of the contributing authors are also donating their payments and royalties. Thank you!

1:33 pm edt          Comments


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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
 
Miss El mira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Forty-Thirty 
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast

Bethlehem

Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood

 

 

Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
and 
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA
.

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,