More of a rough approximation than an imaginative penetration of the period.

THE NEW WORLD

Motion, the distinguished British man of letters, has retained the two principals of Silver (2012), his robust sequel to Stevenson’s Treasure Island, but otherwise, this is a stand-alone frontier novel.

Those principals are young Jim Hawkins, same-named son of Stevenson’s cabin boy, and Natty Silver, the biracial tomboy daughter of rascally Long John and his Caribbean wife. Shipwrecked off Texas in 1802, the only survivors, they are captured by Native Americans (Red Indian “savages,” thinks narrator Jim), escorted through the wilderness to their settlement, and imprisoned. The fearsome chief, Black Cloud, sports a magnificent silver necklace, a power source, which Jim will steal after a surprisingly easy escape. His theft sets in motion a dilatory yearslong pursuit by the chief, the only throughline the novel offers. Jim and Natty ride away on stolen ponies. Though he has declared his love for her, he doesn’t act on it. At key moments it's Natty who's the decision-maker, leaving Jim a blank slate recording their impressions. “They made a very pretty picture,” concludes Jim, after they meet a much different, peace-loving tribe, and indeed Motion, a former poet laureate, provides many pretty pictures. Action is harder to come by. The English adventurers spend an idyllic two years with these friendly Indians, who offer sanctuary until Black Cloud reappears. They then throw in with some traveling entertainers, but their gig is interrupted by the chief, who is wounded but not by Jim; this further undercuts his position. More travel gets them to the climax in New Orleans. Jim has learned that Indians vary greatly, from fierce to friendly to destitute, but has he learned much about himself? To the recurring question of why he must keep that troublesome necklace, he can only answer “We’re like our fathers,” to which Natty assents.

More of a rough approximation than an imaginative penetration of the period.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8041-3845-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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