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Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack

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4.07  ·  Rating details ·  74 ratings  ·  64 reviews
“How the characters in this story are interconnected is a marvel of storytelling.” — JOHN IRVING

Fate, circumstance, and the symbolism of sight collide in this modern gothic novel.


On a hot June day in 1965, two six-year-old boys, Gareth and Jack, compete to see who can climb higher up a tree. When Jack falls and loses his eye on a thorn bush, the accident sets off a series
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Paperback, 304 pages
Expected publication: February 9th 2021 by Dundurn
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Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  74 ratings  ·  64 reviews


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Carolyn
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you, NetGalley and Dundurn Press for this captivating character-driven novel with touches of magic-realism, romance, and a gothic flair. This was a well-crafted novel with a poetic narrative blended with some exquisite prose. Themes include dark family secrets, tragedy, guilt, and resilience, along with art and music.

It deals with physical vision and also the importance of insight. Fate is two-sided and consists of the good and the bad. To get through life one must accept both. A major f
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Apoorva
Nov 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Firstly, I want to acknowledge NetGalley, Author Heidi von Palleske and Publisher Dundurn Press for the ARC of the novel.

The narrative of the book is entirely unique and engaging. Never had I discovered such a scenario where the stories of four children are so mingled with each other. The story is wonderfully crafted and has a lyrical narrative that provides the total reading experience a distinct joy altogether. I thought the whole novel was directed by the actors rather than the actual tale it
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Juliana (Midnight Book Blog)
That was definitely a wild ride, full RTC!
(review will be posted within a month of publication date, ARC courtesy of NetGalley)
Lolly K Dandeneau
via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/
𝑰𝒕 𝒎𝒂𝒚 𝒃𝒆 𝒂 𝒓𝒆𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒆𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕, 𝒃𝒖𝒕, 𝒕𝒐 𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒃𝒐𝒅𝒚, 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒆𝒚𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒂𝒏 𝒊𝒏𝒗𝒂𝒔𝒊𝒗𝒆 𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒊𝒆𝒔, 𝒘𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒐𝒄 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒑𝒉𝒚𝒔𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒍 𝒆𝒄𝒐𝒔𝒚𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒎.

Heidi von Palleske’s novel left me thinking about fate, the word has a tendency to conjure happy circumstances for people who forget that fate is a two sided coin, you get the bad with the good. The characters living on these pages lose their eye, their mother, their innocence, and sometimes their very sanity. Gareth is witness
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Lisa Konet
This was a more unique and different kind of read and I understand it may not be for everyone. There is 1 rape scene but it is less than a page long. It was to show something terrible happened and the book does not drag this incident on. This book is a mix of mythology, fantasy and gothic lore unlike Mexican Gothic that was truly a mess and overrated (JMO). Overall, I really liked this book and will re-read it in the future.

A friend (gareth) witnesses his friend climbing a tree and falling(Jack)
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Story
I loved this novel with its gorgeous prose, strange and vibrant characters, mythic/fairy-tale sensibility and gritty Gothic undertones. The author transported me into her magical, fey world and I didn't want the story to end.

Highly recommended for readers who enjoys authors such as such as Heather O'Neil, Karen Russell and Amy Bloom who create larger-than-life characters and story worlds.

Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a fair review.
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Allie Marini
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to NetGalley & the publishing house, who provided a free copy of this book for a fair & honest review. *

OK, so as noted by several of the lower-star reviewers — this book is not for everyone, AND THAT IS OKAY. Here’s my response to the most frequent criticisms I saw in the other reviews:

“Vulgarity.” — Life is vulgar, & people swear. Also, fuck off. 🤭

CW — there is a rape scene, & it is graphic. HOWEVER. There is a HUGE difference between a rape scene written by a female-identified wr
...more
Lauren Davis
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read the book. This novel weaves worlds together. It is not only full of sensual imagery and pinpoint details, but it is brave, and bold and necessary.

Vanessa
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This book caught my eye because of the title. This book is just completely stunning. It's also pretty raw at times, which I liked a lot. It's all about the choices that people make and the consequences of their actions. It all begins when Johnny (Jack) falls from a tree and loses an eye. Gareth meets albino twins, Clara and Blanca, at the eye doctor and instantly becomes obsessed (infatuated) with them. The story develops as they all move toward adulthood, learning to be themselves and accepting ...more
Jennifer
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really intriguing premise with fascinating characters. I'm glad I read the introduction by the author because she's intentionally wrapping together a number of themes and plot points for very specific reasons. Thankfully, for me at least, all of these elements gelled together cohesively and added up to a memorable story that will stay with me for some time.

This book plays around with the idea of fate and destiny--that things both work out how they "should" but not necessarily the way we want th
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BookwormishMe
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ng-reviews, reviewed
This is a story about accidents and destiny. How accidental things happen in our lives that perhaps set a course for our future that was possibly predetermined. It has been described as a Gothic novel, but I didn’t find all that much Goth in it. I found a group of individuals whose lives were permanently intertwined by fate.

Jack and Gareth are best friends. They are typical boys roughhousing and outdoor creatures. Until the day that Gareth prods Jack to climb a tree just a bit higher. A bit too
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KarenK
I received this from Netgalley.com.

"Gareth and Jack, compete to see who can climb higher up a tree. When Jack falls and loses his eye on a thorn bush, the accident sets off a series of events that will bind the boys together for the rest of their lives."

This book is all over the place, lots and lots of historical data dumps which were a challenge to muck through. The paragraph breaks are not obvious and when pov changes it makes the story confusing.

1☆
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helen k.
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
[I received an E-ARC from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review]

This book was a joy to read. With incredible real humans at the centre; this book takes you on a magical ride of mythology, fantasy, gothic lore, and what it means to be human. Absolutely recommend.
Laura Prindable
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you Net Galley for a copy of this ARC. This book was a slow starter for me, until I seen it ask come together. Beautifully woven story. The kind that sticks with you.
Carmen
Dec 11, 2020 added it
This book reads quickly...maybe too quickly. It was over and I still wanted more. Heidi has outdone herself. This book covers interesting topics in an insightful way. Thanks for the great read!
Charlotte Ansell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack is a totally unique and brilliant novel that will force you to keep reading well into the early hours of the morning.

The lives of two best friends, Jack and Gareth, and their families intertwine with the life of Albino twins Clara and Blanca to create a compelling read that spans decades. Von Palleske's writing is gripping, the characters are some of the most unusual and vivid I have come across (Hilda will always have a special place in my heart) and the
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Aaron
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poetic and absolutely captivating. A story that spans a lifetime, told from many diverse and endearing perspectives. There was no protagonist that I didn't love in this story. Von Palleske breathes such incredible life into her characters, that it's impossible not to find yourself invested in how their story might end.

I don't say this lightly, but I truly believe that this is literary fiction at its finest. Historical, fantastical, gripping and adventurous, it really is unlike any other book I'
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C.R. Elliott
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was one of those books that pulled me in with the description. I struggled through the first chapter and set it aside for awhile feeling a little disappointed. But there was just something that kept me wanting to read a little further in. I'm so glad I did! The characters and the ways they thread in and around each other is irresistible. The momentum of the story was slow to start but built up over time until I just couldn't put it down. There are a lot of themes to the story but I loved th ...more
Hannelore Cheney
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thank you NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the eARC.
This is a fascinating book, it's not only a good story, it also has some interesting facts about albinism, loss of sight, glass eyes and Germany from WWII to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
As a person who was born with sight in only one eye, has a German mother and emigrated to Canada, this book really resonated with me.
Great characters, a story that has a touch of mysticism and excellent, intelligent writing make for a novel that's different, in
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Martin Harbury
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heidi’s writing weaves a magical tale, full of fascinating characters, and brimming with unforgettable images, tying together love, pain and mystery. I will never look at lakes - or any large body of water
- the same way again.

Cavanagh
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a ride! Great book, original characters and huge themes. I loved, loved, loved it!
Allie Marini
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
* Thank you to NetGalley & the publishing house, who provided a free copy of this book for a fair & honest review. *

OK, so as noted by several of the lower-star reviewers — this book is not for everyone, AND THAT IS OKAY. Here’s my response to the 2 most frequent criticisms I saw in the other reviews:

“Vulgarity.” — Life is vulgar, & people swear. Also, fuck off. 🤭

CW — there is a rape scene, & it is graphic. HOWEVER. There is a HUGE difference between a rape scene written by a female-identifie
...more
Denise Baer
I want to thank NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the opportunity to read this book. The title and description piqued my interest regarding its literary gothic feel, a splash of unique characters, friendship and romance, along with the setting bouncing from Lake Ontario to Germany.

The story is about two friends, Gareth and Johnny, and their journey into adulthood. When young, Gareth goads Johnny into climbing higher up a tree, Johnny accepts the challenge and falls, losing his eye and becoming ca
...more
Lizp
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this unusual read. In parts, it read like a fairytale. It is based between the 1960s and 1980s, spanning Lake Ontario and Berlin.

Gareth sees his friend Johnny fall from a tree, resulting in his losing an eye. Gareth’s brother, Tristan, also has an eye problem. So begins a theme of sight, whether it be actual sight or insight.

Gareth goes with Tristan to his eye appointments where he meets unusual twin sisters. Blanca and Clara speak a shared, secret language. They are snow white in col
...more
Daniel
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack is unlike any book I have ever read. The characters are rich and complex, the language is beautiful and the plotline makes it a page-turner. The most subtle seeds planted in the early pages take root and blossom in the second half. This tale, of interweaving stories, all come together brilliantly in the end.

Like John Irving's writing, von Palleske creates a world all its own with gorgeous prose, clever plotting, and brilliant characterization that will mak
...more
Kim
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author states that “This novel is my small way of scratching the surface of complacency with my raspy voice.” While Heidi von Palleske may believe that, this novel is spoken with a voice of fluid thought, descriptions, emotions and tremendous lyricism. She hasn’t scratched the surface of complacency, she has ripped it wide open and exposed the underbelly of vile familial situations. She hasn’t omitted many topics, she hasn’t deflected the raw emotions that are part of the territory of love a ...more
Lucia Web
A beautiful book. The language is rich, poetic. The research is intense. The characters are full-blown and three dimensional -- beautifully flawed and full of humanity.

Why I love this book:
- The folk-lore, mythology and gothic elements lay quietly beneath a modern setting.
- The change in focus from one character to another is seamless (and never boring)
- There are lots of surprises
- I learned a lot about glass eyes and how they are made, art, and photography
- There is a strong message about acc
...more
Kim
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, arc
I was given a free ARC by NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

In this modern Gothic tale, one small event (a boy falling from a tree and losing his eye because of it) causes a ripple-effect that influences the lives of a lot of people in some way.
It is a book about fate, and about not letting it determine everything. About accepting life as it comes, and then taking control of it to make the best of the hand you have been dealt.

I liked how the cast of characters felt bizarre and quirky
...more
Rachel
Aug 10, 2020 rated it liked it
I received this arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This took a bit to get through and I was less interested in the past that I was in the present - but isn’t that always the way? Who cares about the old people? But without the past, you can’t understand the present...or something. I wasn’t really drawn to these characters, until Gareth started painting. He turns out to be the conscience of the novel, not part of the title, but the catalyst for half of the title (which is quite c
...more
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Heidi von Palleske is an actor and an activist as well as a writer. As a film actor she is best known for her work in the Feminist Western, Bordello, and her breakout movie Dead Ringers.

Her favourite authors include: Robertson Davies, Milan Kundera, Jane Urquhart, John Irving, Michael Ondaatje, Peter Susskind and Lauren B. Davis.

Heidi continues to balance both careers as a writer and as an actor.
...more

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