Malicious fun, with a very keen edge. Wilson’s most abrasively entertaining yet.


Readers who treasure Evelyn Waugh’s nasty 1938 comic masterpiece Scoop (and we are legion) will rejoice to find it reborn in the tireless British author’s saber-toothed 18th novel.

A superbly sleazy Fleet Street rag, The Legion—surely inspired by Waugh’s Daily Beast—wages war on truth, justice and its publisher Lennox “Lennie” Mark’s many, many enemies. Chief among them is former army officer turned radical Anglican priest Vivyan Chell, from whose deathbed the tale of The Legion’scrimes and its minions’ messily intertwined lives begins to unfold. Father Vivyan’s adventures in political sabotage have undermined the misrule of moribund African nation Zariya’s thuggish General Bindinga—the ill-gotten gains from whose atrocities provide The Legion’s primary financial support. Variously involved co-conspirators and observers include failed poet and all-purpose columnist L.P. Watson (certainly we may be forgiven for detecting just a hint of A.N. Wilson in him); his gossipy confidante, Mary Mulch, editor of the superslick Gloss; still-idealistic arts editor Rachel Pearl and the several males (including L.P.) who admire her journalistic and other chops; Lennie Mark’s bisexual Euro-trash wife Martina (a wonderful caricature: too bad the middle-aged Lotte Lenya isn’t around to portray her); West Indian beauty Mercy d’Abo, and her emotionally disturbed biracial bastard teenaged son Peter, whose schizophrenic outbursts have much to do with this busy story’s precipitous pitch forward into hell. My Name is Legion (whose wry title nicely suggests its satanic content) is an all-out, take-no-prisoners encyclopedic satire, which may push rather more buttons than it needs to (even the Queen takes her lumps, in a memorably snotty aside). But it plays fair, finding genuine heroism in those (notably Father Chell) who oppose The Legion’s reductive trashings and otherwise subtly celebrating the political, religious and artistic standards from which it has so egregiously fallen.

Malicious fun, with a very keen edge. Wilson’s most abrasively entertaining yet.

Pub Date: May 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-21742-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller


A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?


The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet