Levy’s laconic style is often very effective in this ambitious, chilling tale of psychopathology and exploitation.

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EUROPEAN SON

Levy debuts with an elegiac novella featuring a troubled young narrator on a dangerous journey to satisfy his needs for control and sexual vengeance.

In 1989, as the story begins, the unnamed narrator turns 27. But far from celebrating the event, he becomes increasingly alienated from those closest to him. He pitches himself from a leafy suburb of New Haven, Conn., onto continental Europe, beginning in London and Amsterdam, then moving on to the French Riviera, sidling among the couples enjoying romantic liaisons sur la plage. But the narrator isn’t interested in romance, at least not with any one person. He’s obsessed with triangulation and always in the most oblique form. Consigned to an orphanage at age 7 after the simultaneous deaths of both parents, he was finally adopted at 14 by older parents with a teenage daughter, Ann. His sense of disjunction was exacerbated by Ann’s inappropriate interest in him and by an early realization of his same-sex attraction. Ann’s impact on him and her ability to manipulate him is at the heart of the novella. The action in Nice, plaited with flashbacks and stand-alone poems, is elliptical and intense. Like Patricia Highsmith’s infamous Ripley, the narrator insinuates himself into situations and relationships, becoming both an object of desire and revulsion. There’s an air of mystery surrounding the events rather than any real mysteries. The book’s brevity leaves little time for suspense to linger; most questions are answered within a few pages. The narrative refers directly to some weighty and controversial works of art such as Pier Pasolini’s films Teorema and Porcile and Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water. Their recurrent themes of handsome interlopers wreaking havoc on couples and of erotic acts tinged with violence appear throughout the novella. The author’s arcane knowledge of midcentury film often misses the mark, as the allusions are not readily evident and add little to the effort. Levy’s poetry is generally successful, and he demonstrates lyrical talent, with occasional off notes, such as “a dream of Poe-etic justice.” Not a coming-out story or solely about sexual attraction between individuals, the book’s conclusions are unnerving as are many of the scenes portrayed.

Levy’s laconic style is often very effective in this ambitious, chilling tale of psychopathology and exploitation.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478104988

Page Count: 158

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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