An unforgettable re-creation of a vanished way of life.

ROSE-TAINTED FRAGMENTS

In this luminous coming-of-age story, a boy absorbs the joys—and terrors—of life in an Italian village.

As the book chronicles a year in the life of a lad growing up on a small farm with his little sister and tensely dissatisfied working-class parents, the small town of La Croce offers a voluminous series of vivid set-pieces of peasant life. There are the sunlit mountain vistas and the timeless rhythms of wheat and grape harvests, arcane rites for warding off the evil eye, religious pilgrimages and knotty discussions of the Trinity, luscious meals and evenings spent at the boy’s warm-hearted grandparents’ farmhouse up the hillside, chasing fireflies and listening to tales of ruthless brigands, intrepid saints, philandering husbands and wives who get the last laugh. The boy’s existence revolves around small triumphs and sorrows—schoolyard fights, glimpses of an enchanting red-haired girl, the longing for a cowboy outfit like the ones in the movies—but he grows aware of darker undercurrents in his idyllic life: his father’s bitter class resentment, born of gnawing economic uncertainty; the gory slaughter of livestock that leaves the boy feeling guilt-stricken; smiling predators who lurk within the close-knit community. Working from his protagonist’s limited but keen perspective, Anonymo paints a sweeping social panorama of Italy in the ’60s, an era when rural life was yielding to a disruptive but hopeful modernity. La Croce is still ruled by age-old peasant verities such as the fearful understanding that “compared to hunger and pain, the rest of life is hardly real.” But also on the boy’s horizons are the Beatles and the Volkswagen Beetle, harbingers of an exciting future of glamour and pleasure; and weighing on everyone’s mind is the daunting, thrilling possibility of emigration to America. The author writes with a subtle, evocative prose that is at once earthy and lyrical. The boy’s fictive world emerges with such vibrant immediacy and immersive detail that we feel a powerful sense of loss when it starts to crumble.

An unforgettable re-creation of a vanished way of life.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2010

ISBN: 978-1453659977

Page Count: 416

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2010

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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