THE ROCK OF TANIOS

Lebanese journalist and author Maalouf's (Leo Africanus, 1988, etc.) Goncourt Prizewinning historical romance is lyrical and poetic. Set in the Lebanese village of Kfaryabda, the novel skips merrily from the present into the late 19th century as an aged townsman tells his nephew the story of Lamia and Tanios. Lamia, the wife of an official in the court of the local potentate, is so beautiful that her pulchritude has become proverbial in the region, and the Sheikh becomes determined to have her. He seduces her, and Lamia bears a child. Despite the secrecy and brevity of their tryst, rumors begin to circulate in the court and in the village that the child is the Sheikh's. Tanios, the child, grows up with the best that can be provided, including an education at a foreign mission school. It is a period when Lebanon is the center of a great political game: Egypt and the Ottoman Empire contend against each other; France and Britain jockey for position; Islam and Christianity jostle; rebellion against the hierarchical political structure is brewing; and intrigue abounds. When Tanios's legal father (Lamia's husband) kills the Patriarch, the Christian leader of the village and a rival in the Sheikh's court, he and Tanios are forced to flee. Beginning their flight in terror and remorse, the two fugitives soon become embroiled in the machinations tearing the country apart. Eventually it becomes clear that only they can put a halt to the troubles, and they emerge as unlikely mediators in the diplomatic wrangling. The book's title derives from an unusual rock formation, resembling a great stone chair, that dominates the village. Local legend has it that Tanios, who has taken on mythic status, sat on the chair and was never seen again. Magical and compelling, the novel is the work of a master stylist, rendered in a subtle and supple translation.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8076-1365-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Braziller

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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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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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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