Miller is in fine form here, mixing an unforgettable cat-and-mouse chase with a moving love story.

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A British cavalry officer fleeing traumatic memories seeks solace on a Scottish island, but his new refuge may not be remote enough to let him escape a dangerous enemy.

When Capt. John Lacroix returns from the Napoleonic wars in Spain to his Somerset estate, he is broken in body and spirit. It is 1809, and the evacuation of retreating British forces from the port of Corunna is a humiliating defeat. “None of this has the look of victory,” says the doctor treating him. As Nell, the housekeeper, tends his wounds, Lacroix slowly heals physically. But he refuses to talk about his battlefield experiences, saying only, “The war was very hard on horses, Nell.” When he receives orders to return to his regiment, the young man decides to flee, embarking on a journey north to the remote Hebrides, where he will find healing and love with the free-thinking Emily Frend. Traveling under an assumed name, Lacroix is unaware that Cpl. Calley and Lt. Medina, two soldiers, are in pursuit with secret orders to kill him. Calley, who identified Lacroix as the officer responsible for an atrocity in a Spanish village, is remorseless in his hunt. By alternating the narrative between Lacroix and his pursuers, Miller (The Crossing, 2017, etc.) effectively ratchets up the tension and suspense. With a less-skilled writer, naming characters after the officers and soldiers charged in the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam could have come across as a ham-fisted approach, but it’s appropriately chilling in this melancholy portrait of war, culpability, and redemption. The luscious prose (“the mud was liquid clay”) adds to the mood, and Miller’s precise historical details (a horn spoon tucked into an apron pocket) feel organic and real; the author keeps his research well hidden. The dazzling, ambiguous ending will fodder plenty of book-club debate.

Miller is in fine form here, mixing an unforgettable cat-and-mouse chase with a moving love story.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60945-543-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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