A TRAITOR'S DAUGHTER

An autobiographical novel, first published in France, searingly re-creates one of the darkest periods in Russian history as it tells the story of young Anna—a descendant of intellectuals and nobles who had sided with the Bolsheviks. Anna, born in Leningrad in 1925, enjoyed a comfortable early childhood; but as Stalin began his campaign of terror in the early 1930's, all this changed. Her parents divorced, and she and her mother moved to her grandfather's small apartment. Food and fuel were short, but young Anna, though brought up as a Christian, yearned to be a communist so that she would ``be able to help defend our country.'' When her mother remarries and then dies in childbirth, this very relative idyll ends, and Anna goes to live with her father's mother and his naval-hero stepfather Diaka. Diaka's reputation and position provide a measure of comfort, but when the two older people drink, they quarrel, become abusive, and turn on Anna. Meanwhile, school classmates disappear—children of traitors are sent to reform schools—and living conditions deteriorate as the family is forced to give up rooms to avert accusations of privilege. As Anna enters adolescence, the terror begins to affect her own family: Diaka is arrested, as is Anna's father, and she's denounced by the school principal as the daughter of a traitor. An elderly relative tries to rape her, food is short, and now she also begins to drink. War breaks out, the Germans invade, and defying their orders, Anna is sent to a forced labor camp in Austria. But, fortunately, she has relatives in Paris, and this grim recital of horror piled upon horror ends as she is permitted to join them. A relentlessly dark litany of miseries—unrelieved by even the most fleeting lightness—whose impact is undercut by a stilted translation.

Pub Date: June 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8419-1294-7

Page Count: 197

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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