Cool but, as always, deadly accurate.


Brookner (Making Things Better, Jan. 2003, etc.) again chronicles with surgical precision lives distorted by temperament and circumstance.

Elizabeth, now in her 50s, narrates a grim tale about two women, friends since childhood, whose illusions about love have tragic outcomes. Elizabeth and Betsy are quintessential Brookner characters who realize early on that life cannot be fought but only endured. Both are affected by a past that shapes the rest of their lives. Betsy’s mother died young, leaving her to be raised by her father and a maiden aunt. She yearned to belong to a “real” family like Elizabeth’s, which was in reality riven by discord and, eventually, divorce. After school, Elizabeth studies cooking in Paris, where she is miserable and lonely. Back in London, no happier and now bored as well, she marries the much older Digby. Betsy comes home from Paris, where she is living with French radical Daniel, to attend the wedding. Elizabeth observes that her friend is happy and in love, a condition that suits Betsy’s romantic nature. Though both women come of age in the 1960s, neither is able to enjoy that decade’s freedom or opportunities Still bored, Elizabeth next falls into bed with Edmund Fairlie, a colleague of her husband’s; she finds their affair curiously stimulating, but when Digby suddenly dies she breaks it off and retreats into quiet loneliness. Betsy, alone after Daniel is killed in an accident, meets Edmund at Digby’s funeral and is soon in love with him and his entire family. Elizabeth observes at a distance her friend’s doomed liaison with the cool and ruthless Edmund, whose wife is equally cynical. Then Betsy becomes terminally ill, and Elizabeth realizes that both of them are now middle-aged, childless, and alone. Their mistake was to see themselves as lovers rather than as wives, and both have paid for that error with lonely and empty years.

Cool but, as always, deadly accurate.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-6165-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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