Incisive and often wickedly funny as social commentary, though many characters are more like caricatures and the finale...

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A satirical novel set in the author’s native Mumbai, where Indian boys from the slums find themselves hot commodities because of their potential in cricket.

Even readers who know nothing about the sport will find this as easy to understand as if it were a novel about American inner-city kids groomed for success in basketball, facing long odds as an escape from poverty. In the third novel by Adiga, who won the Man Booker Prize for his debut (The White Tiger, 2008), the protagonist is Manju, 7 years old at the outset, overshadowed by the cricket prowess of his older brother. An influential gatekeeper and columnist named Tommy Sir sees potential in both boys, bringing them to the attention of a venture capitalist. The boys’ father also sees the commercial potential in his sons and wants to maximize his percentage, holding them to rules he enforces strictly, even when they don’t make much sense. The older son, Radha, is the first to rebel, “now conscious that his father’s rules, which had framed the world around him since he could remember, were prison bars.” Manju thus becomes the hope for the family and perhaps Mumbai, where young cricketers show the possibility of “creating new value in a dead city.” But the younger brother faces plenty of coming-of-age challenges of his own, as cricket must compete with a potential girlfriend, with his interest in forensic science as nurtured by CSI, and, most of all, by a boy from a patrician background who also forsakes cricket but has options that the much poorer Manju does not. “He’s my real father,” says Manju of the richer friend he tries to emulate, before sexual identity as well as class distinction complicate the picture. As Manju tries to figure out who he really is and what he wants, the author suggests that “this Republic (so-called) of India, was filled to the brim with the repressed, depressed, and dangerous.”

Incisive and often wickedly funny as social commentary, though many characters are more like caricatures and the finale doesn’t resolve much.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5083-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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