MERLIN'S HARP

From the author of A Woman's Place (1978, not reviewed) and several children's books: an amusing and inventive twist on the inexhaustively fecund Arthurian legends. Here, the narrator is one of the magical, somewhat fearsome, Fey—the fairylike beings called (erroneously) ``the Good Folk'' by wary villagers. Crompton's version tells of how Niviene, the daughter of the Lady of the Lake, has to leave the forest of the Fey with the magician Merlin in an effort to save King Arthur's Peace—a tale that begins rousingly enough as young Niviene and her friend Elana (whom Niviene suspects of having a Human heart) consider eating the huge, beautiful, drugged Gwenevere, who's been abducted by the Fey Otter Mellias. Merlin and the Lady decree that Gwenevere must be returned, since King Arthur, who saved their forest from the Saxons, himself might invade to avenge his Queen. So Niviene's beloved brother Lugh sets out, disguised as a knight- -and, yes, turns out to be you know who. While Lugh/Lancelot suffers almost Human attachment to that great ninny Gwenevere, Elana dies in a boat of flowers, and Niviene succumbs to a ``strong, handsome, terrified'' Human, none other than Arthur, with baby Bran the result. When little Bran is lost, however, a heartbroken Niviene begins her long search—a quest that will take her and old Merlin to Camelot, the horrifying den of Morgan le Faye, and, after miles of galloping over Britain, to a hermit's hut and the secret of the Holy Grail. Throughout, Niviene, who attempts to douse her Human side, reads auras, turns invisible, and smiles to hide her little pointed teeth. At the close, she'll find Bran (tragically) and witness Arthur's supposed death. Several fairy leagues in sophistication below the Elfin Kingdom tales of Sylvia Townsend Warner (which appeared in the New Yorker in the '60s and '70s); still, this spirited saga is told in lyrically appealing prose—and spates of rhyme. An easy double for young adults.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 1995

ISBN: 1-55611-463-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more