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A LOVE DIVINE

The earnest, prone-to-ramble Ripley—of the oft-panned Scarlett, the sequel to Gone with the Wind, plus many others- -tackles a challenging, somewhat obscure subject here with distinctly mixed results. The first three-quarters of this epic comprise a carefully researched, minutely detailed and imaginatively conceived (it is, after all, fictional) ``biography'' of Joseph of Arimathea, the man who gave his burial site for the crucified Jesus of Nazareth and is credited with spreading Christianity to England and beyond. From the opening, when Joseph—a Jew and the son of a farmer—dreams as a 12-year-old of life as a traveler, then eventually marries his childhood companion Sarah, and still later goes on to highly successful business ventures transporting tin from far-off lands to King Herod's castles at Caesarea, Ripley is in control of her material and tells a gripping tale of an unfamiliar time with only a few lapses into anachronistic language. But the last quarter of the story—in which Joseph must face the aftermath of his friendship with the emperor Augustus (whom he befriended via Herod), the evil machinations of Sejanus the Jew Hater, the trials of Herod's son Herod Agrippa, the deaths of his beloved Sarah and wise old grandmother Rebekkah, the miseries of his only daughter Ella (who was born with useless legs)—moves at a ludicrously fast pace, as though the author realized at end that she still had a great deal of ground to cover. As a result, when Joseph finally encounters Jesus of Nazareth, who heals Ella's legs with a single kind phrase and begins his crucial mission of conversion, his words and newfound beliefs have more the superficial tone of the modern- day televangelist than they do the ringing certainties of a true believer. More detail about Joseph and his time—real and imagined—than many may have imagined wanting, but with the significant exception of her weakened conclusion, Ripley makes this informative read also entertaining. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 1996

ISBN: 0-446-51691-0

Page Count: 704

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1996

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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