In so dark a tale there can be no chirpy affirmations, but only telling indictments of the corrupt, the cruel, and the...



Portugal’s years under the fascist Salazar are portrayed in a succession of bad dreams, each vividly recalled as characters comment on that dark night of the national soul.

Antunes experiments with language and ideas in a story both allusive and surreal: sinister dogs haunt the landscape, and one narrator is building a boat as a means of escape though the sea is some distance away. But what counts is the cumulative effect and an atmosphere rendered so that history is both judged and understood—in a read that’s challenging as various voices pick up the narrative or circle back on what has just been revealed. It opens as the middle-aged Jao enters a Lisbon courtroom for a divorce hearing. Jao, a gentle soul, is the only son of Senhor Francisco and his wife Isabel, who ran off with another man when Jao was still a small boy. Jao has been living on the family farm, once a prosperous place where the Senhor, a senior minister in Salazar’s fascist government, lavishly entertained the dictator and his cronies. Now, it’s a rundown, falling-apart place where Jao is building a boat to escape while he’s still sane, unlike his father, who ended up demented and in a hospital. As the case proceeds, Jao recalls how his father used the farmwomen and how he panicked when Salazar fell, fearing that communists were coming to get him and the farm. Jao, the Senhor, life on the farm, and the excesses of the former regime—arbitrary imprisonment and brutality in Africa—are remembered by a string of characters like Dona Titina, the aging housekeeper who raised Jao; Sofia, Jao’s socialite wife; the Senhor’s mistresses; his illegitimate daughter, as well as the senile Senhor himself.

In so dark a tale there can be no chirpy affirmations, but only telling indictments of the corrupt, the cruel, and the unjust—and these Antunes memorably accomplishes.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8021-1732-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

Did you like this book?

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Did you like this book?