An ambitious and intricate Eastern European tale that reaches across decades and generations.

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THE OTHER VIKI

Based on a true story, this debut novel tells of identical twins separated at birth and the harsh realities of life in Romania under Communist rule.

Spanning nigh on a century, the tale opens during the Depression in rural Romania. Economic strain has taken its toll on the Antonescu family. As heads of the household, Georgi and Olga steadily realize that their farm is no longer producing sufficient revenue to support everyone under their roof. Their ultimatum to their older children is harsh yet necessary: leave or die. So begins a story of heartache and displacement. Harald, who has acted as a caretaker to his younger siblings, packs the group into a cart and, taking the reins, sets out to find a brighter future. Immediately, Ana, his 11-year-old sister, distinguishes herself as the most discordant of the band, given to sulking when she’s asked to walk behind the cart to relieve the burden on their horse. Harald finds land to farm, and over the course of years, the family forges a new life, although Ana is never really happy. After running back to Georgi and Olga, she decides that she never will return to Harald. Instead, she marries a local policeman, Ion Pavenic. After Ana gives birth to identical twin girls, she suffers a chronic illness and is unable to look after both babies. Harald and his wife, Sophia, take one of the twins, whom they name Viki, and raise her as their own. Viki’s life is a remarkable one, raised in the suffocating conditions of Communist Romania under the scrutiny of the country’s secret service; will she ever find true freedom or discover the truth about being a twin? The author skillfully illuminates the family’s lineage, revealing precisely where the members have come from and the events that have shaped them. Their story is told with sincerity and intense conviction, which makes it all the more captivating. Bennett’s observational skills are highly tuned and effortlessly poetic, to the degree that the atmosphere of a room is wholly palpable: “In the weak lantern light, the family’s mingled breath gusted clouds of vapor that floated up and disappeared into the low ceiling’s exposed rafters.” The culmination of such talents is a beguiling, expertly balanced work played out by characters that are easy to care about and root for.

An ambitious and intricate Eastern European tale that reaches across decades and generations.   

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5246-7022-1

Page Count: 454

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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