A tragically poetic study of the calamity that set back the civil rights movement.

LIKE A FADING SHADOW

In the days after his assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., a frantic James Earl Ray knocks around Lisbon.

Spanish author Muñoz Molina’s (In the Night of Time, 2016, etc.) latest work is not a typical retelling of an important moment in history. Closely following Ray's path but intertwining it with Muñoz Molina's own writing process, the book delicately oscillates between an author’s quest for truth and a criminal’s search for safety. Through short but dense narrative fragments, Muñoz Molina explores the mind of a killer by comparing it to his own. “A novel is a state of mind, a warm interior where you seek refuge as you write, a cocoon that is weaved from the inside, locking you within it, showing you the world outside through its translucent concavity. A novel is a confession and a hideout,” Muñoz Molina writes. Readers will follow Ray through his various identities in Lisbon, London, and the United States, during the moments leading up to the assassination, through his escape, hiding, and capture. But the reader will also be witness to Muñoz Molina’s writing process, the moment he fell in love with his wife, his discovery of Ray’s trajectory, and, finally, the completion of his project. Interestingly enough, Muñoz Molina does not seem concerned with humanizing Ray—this will come as a relief for some readers. Instead, the author focuses on understanding the novel as a mind, one that can be interwoven with that of other individuals and ultimately hybridized to create a body of work that “subjects life to its own limits and at the same time opens it up to an exploration of depths that are within and without you and that only you were meant to discover.”

A tragically poetic study of the calamity that set back the civil rights movement.

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-12690-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...

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A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.

Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02619-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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