FRAUD

Again, Brookner (A Closed Eye, Brief Lives, etc.) acutely limns the lives of women shaped as much by temperament as by circumstance, but this time she liberates her heroine—both from herself and her situation—in an uncharacteristically upbeat ending. Like a typical Victorian daughter, 50-ish Anna Durrant—kept in her place by ``the habit of affection'' and ``the iron discipline to which she had subjected herself''—has devoted the best years of her life to taking care of her ailing mother. Anna seems incapable of breaking these old habits even when her mother dies. She tries to help Mrs. Marsh, an elderly widow of stoic independence, who is more irritated than gratified by Anna's well- meaning attentions. When Anna suddenly disappears, her family doctor, Lawrence Halliday, a once likely suitor, alerts the police, but Anna cannot be found. The events of the months leading up to her disappearance are then recalled by the earlier Anna and her few acquaintances in scenes that, like an indictment, accumulate to reveal how much of Anna's life has been a fraud. The precipitating moment is a ghastly dinner with Lawrence Halliday, whom Anna realizes she should—and could—have married, and his wife, attractive only because of her obvious sexual greed. Back home, Anna considers the lines of ValÇry that describe ``the strength born secretly out of idleness or inaction.'' Consideration is followed by resolve, and Anna returns to France, where she had once been a student, determined to go out into ``the bright, dark, dangerous and infinitely welcoming street'' of life. As she tells a friend surprised to find her in Paris after all: ``I believed my mother, who told me that the best things in life are worth waiting for. And I waited. That was the fraud....I blame myself....I shouldn't have been so credulous.'' A quietly powerful exploration of the insidious costs of the unrelieved self-sacrifices expected of—and so usually made—by women. Brookner at her best.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-41606-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1992

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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