An enchanting novel, full of life, about the end of life.
The late Czech novelist, both banned and renowned in his homeland, offers a uniquely compelling blend of parable, fantasy, social realism and testament to the power of storytelling.
Originally issued in 1981 and belatedly translated into English, this novel (by the author of I Served the King of England, 1971, etc.) offers stream-of-consciousness narration by an unnamed woman in her mid-60s who lives with her husband and uncle in a castle that has been converted into an old-age home. Much of what she writes is memory, some is description of her daily activities, much of it might be illusion. Wafting through the air is the romantic, string-laden musical composition that gives the book its title, a timeless reverie that is omnipresent though some may not acknowledge or even hear it. She shares the stories of others, witnesses to a distant past, and she sees what they do: “I saw there what could no longer be seen, but what my friends and I did see, those old witnesses to old times, of which I myself was now one.” Though each chapter is a single paragraph, with some very long sentences, the voice of the narrator is spellbinding, even as the reader becomes less sure of her credibility. Beyond that voice, there isn’t much of a plot except the decline toward death that is everyone’s plot. She tells of her life in “the little town where time stood still,” where her husband ran the brewery and she was the envy of the other women. “Yes, it was a good thing I’d been so proud, that I’d stayed so young and pretty for so long,” she says, leaving the reader to wonder whether it really was a good thing or if she really was as pretty as she remembered. Time really hadn’t stood still: Communism cost her husband the brewery and the two of them their home, amid “huge parades that raise their fist at everything old.” As she reflects, “[w]hat is life? Everything that once was, everything an old person thinks back on and tells you stories about, everything that no longer matters and is gone for good.”An enchanting novel, full of life, about the end of life.
Pub Date: May 6, 2014
Page Count: 220
Review Posted Online: April 1, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014
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by Sally Rooney ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 16, 2019
Absolutely enthralling. Read it.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2019
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019
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More About This Book
BOOK TO SCREEN
by Mark Z. Danielewski ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2000
The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...
An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.
Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad. The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized). As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses). Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture. Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly. One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.
Pub Date: March 6, 2000
Page Count: 704
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000
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