Pleasures that have less to do with story than with Taylor’s portrait of rural Irish life. An amiable cast and description...

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ACROSS THE RIVER

A sequel to The Woman of the House (1999) takes up with the Phelan family eight years later.

In County Cork, in 1960, Martha Phelan is running the Mossgrove farm with the help of old hand Jack, daughter Nora, and her son Peter. Since the death of her husband, relations between her and 20-year-old Peter have been strained—but never more so than now. Coming into his own, Peter wants to take charge and modernize the farm, but Martha has other plans for their savings. She hopes to build her dream house, finally leaving behind both the dark old farmhouse she came to as a bride and the ghosts and memories of the Phelan ancestors that haunt it. But there are more than familial disputes afoot: the old feud between the Phelans and the neighboring Conways is reignited, literally so when Matt Conway sets the Phelan’s new crop of hay on fire. Waiting until Peter was old enough so he could fight as a man, evil Matt Conway now spends his days staring ominously across the river at the Phelan land he feels is rightfully his—though it's Martha, vain, selfish and hard as nails, that he should worry about. Meanwhile, the lovable parish priest is accused of having an affair with Martha’s sister-in-law Kate (untrue) and of beating up Matt Conway (true), both accusations landing him in trouble with the Bishop. When Conway goes too far, all but raping Nora, Martha has her revenge, leaving everyone far happier. With sunny days in store (unless Conway’s eldest son makes trouble) and a wealthy American mooning over Martha, the end is simply a short break until the inevitable sequel.

Pleasures that have less to do with story than with Taylor’s portrait of rural Irish life. An amiable cast and description aplenty for those looking for a bit of an Irish idyll.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-27843-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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