THE FAR EUPHRATES

A ruminative and wonderfully moving first novel about a sheltered boyhood and adolescence, tracing the confusions and pains visited on its sensitive protagonist by approaching maturity. Aryeh Alexander, a rabbi's son, grows up in the 1960s in Windsor, Ontario. His doting extended family is dominated by his mother's childless best friend Berenice and by Hannalore, the twin sister of his father's Cantor and a survivor whose long-repressed memories of WW II Europe comprise one of several disillusioning lessons Alexander is fated to learn about the complex freedoms and burdens of adulthood. From his scholarly father, Alexander learns that ``it's human nature to seek out patterns wherever they may present themselves''—and the novel proceeds to show his instruction in both the necessity and the limitations of discovering such patterns. The Cantor's patient tending of his potted palm trees cannot prevent the devastation wrought by a tornado. No amount of familial love or protectiveness can prevent the sufferings or deaths of the innocent. And the laborious research undertaken by Alexander's father into the geographical and spiritual origins of mankind in the valley of ``the far Euphrates with its source in Eden'' is destined to yield endless and unanswerable further questions in place of ultimate answers. Stollman expertly dramatizes both Alexander's inevitable fascination with the world outside his somewhat insular family (the mercurial personality of a ``deformed'' girl who simultaneously courts him and pushes him away; his sexual fixation on the briefly glimpsed figure of a handsome older boy); and the intellectual and moral momentum that draws him, despite himself, into the embracing orbit of the world of his fathers. A series of losses, and the acceptance of—and accommodations to—loss elevate the lyrical final pages into both a thoroughly satisfying elegy for all the things that cannot remain and an affirmation of our right and need to believe in the essential permanence of things and of the spirit.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-57322-075-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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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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