PIECES OF LIGHT

No less a savage indictment of rural English life than was its predecessor (ULVERTON, 1992), Thorpe’s newest epic is at once more personal and more profound as it details the mysteries and tragedies of a child born in Africa and transported to his uncle’s house in England for schooling. In his old age he discovers the mindbending truth about his past. Young Hugh Arkwright’s memories of interior Africa—where after WWI his father served as a minion of the British Empire in a rotting outpost squeezed between a dark river and a darker jungle—were memories anyone might have of home and a pleasant childhood. Only when packed off to creepy Uncle Edward’s cold stone manor, bereft of his parents and pining for the warmth and wonder of Africa as revealed to him by one of the native servants, does Hugh’s vision darken—and, literally, an eye already weakened by malarial fever fail him completely. After a few years of brutal public school, Edward’s peculiar pantheistic views are lightened only by his mother’s brief visits in summer, but then, just as he’s recovering one winter from a bout of pneumonia, he has dreadful news of her: she walked into the jungle and vanished. Much later Hugh, long a well-known director of classical theater, comes back as an old man to that house in the west of England, having inherited it following the death of Edward’s much younger wife. He finds in the attic a trunk that when he pries it open proves to be a Pandora’s box. From the institution where he’s been placed after his subsequent breakdown Hugh recounts, in a series of painful but therapy-related letters to his long-lost mother, the whole tawdry tale of his one love, the murder he was believed to have committed, and his shock at learning who he really is. Plot details don’t do this eerie, mood-laced saga justice, but driving the novel along with the central mystery, skillfully suspended, is as somber and compelling a view of folklore and folkways as has been seen in fiction in some time.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7867-0661-9

Page Count: 488

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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