The frame is skimpy, and the book’s moral vision can be schematic, but this is a subtly observed, beautifully written,...



The fifth novel by Levy—whose Small Island won Britain’s Orange Prize and was Whitbread Book of the Year—is set in 19th-century Jamaica and covers the last years of slavery and its long, miserable aftermath.

July is fathered by a brutish overseer named Tam Dewar and born to a field slave named Kitty. She’s seized from her mother, renamed “Marguerite,” brought into the plantation house and trained to be the housemaid, chief aide and ultimately confidante to her English mistress, Caroline Mortimer, a plump, overwhelmed young widow. The whites ruthlessly stomp out the “Baptist War” rebellion of 1832—in a harrowing scene, July, cowering beneath her master’s bed alongside the freeman she’s just slept with, witnesses an act of violence—but the end of slavery is nigh, and the institution sputters on for only a few years before abolition. The changes of 1838 seem at first merely nominal, but then a gentle new overseer, the 26-year-old son of English clergy, arrives on Amity Plantation. He promises to persuade the blacks to work for him without using brutality. They’ll plant, cut and haul sugarcane, he thinks, out of enlightened self-interest. Soon the devout optimist is in trouble. First he falls in love with July and tries to resist both the emotion and its attendant lust. Eventually he succumbs, and though he marries Caroline Mortimer for cover, his true spouse is the mulatto he installs in a downstairs bedroom. He treats July with an affection his wife can’t fail to notice or to envy. But as his utopian schemes unravel, so does his relationship with July; racial thinking wins out, and he and Caroline flee for England. Told in retrospect by the elderly July, who’s cajoled and sometimes corrected by her son Thomas, now a wealthy printer, the novel also provides an elegant allegory of storytelling.

The frame is skimpy, and the book’s moral vision can be schematic, but this is a subtly observed, beautifully written, structurally complex novel—an impressive follow-up to Small Island.

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-95086-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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.


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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