A learned, absorbing tale of bondage, freedom, war, and peace.



Prehn’s debut historical novel drops readers into the commingling world of artists, abolitionists, and free spirits in the Greenwich Village of the late 1850s and early 1860s.   

The opening pages of this sprawling work introduce 24-year-old Wendell Harte Parry, a rising American painter for whom “financial success seems more elusive even than fame.” Soon after his return to New York City from a grand tour of Europe, just before the Civil War, Wendell meets Lillian Flax, a pretty young woman who “gave him a smile that made him feel, foolishly, that he was falling.” Within a few pages, Walt Whitman—in the flesh—serenades them with his poem “To a Stranger,” which Prehn—in a gesture that might have horrified the real-life Whitman—center justifies on the page. To Wendell’s displeasure, Lillian turns out to be married to cruel shipping mogul Henry Ferguson, who happens to be Wendell’s patron. Before long, Lillian’s abolitionist activity, and particularly her support for the radical John Brown, puts her in danger. Although he promised Lillian that he wouldn’t pick up a gun, Wendell joins the Union Army and later struggles for his life at Bull Run, where “death and gun-powder hung in the air like the devil’s laundry.” Prehn has quite obviously done extensive research, and she’s effectively fluent in the cultural currents of the era. She convincingly presents a whirlwind of real-life famous figures: actress and writer Ada Clare teaches Wendell what a bohemian is, and he, in turn, becomes one himself; painter Frederick Church and Wendell critique and celebrate one another’s work; author Louisa May Alcott welcomes Wendell and Lillian to her home and joins them to visit Henry David Thoreau in Massachusetts. The characters’ conversations—about the latest New York Tribune column by Karl Marx, say, or the dangers of harboring fugitives—often seem as if Prehn had only just overheard them. As a result, her novel is not just a rousing story of two lovers—it also offers readers a welcome historical education.  

A learned, absorbing tale of bondage, freedom, war, and peace.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-89290-9

Page Count: 500

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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