Touching and well-written.

FISHBOWL

Linked perspectives connect the quirky residents of an apartment building in Somer’s second novel (Imperfections, 2012).

Though it appears unremarkable from the outside, the Seville on Roxy—a “Multi-Residential, High-Density High-Rise”—is teeming with life. And as a goldfish named Ian plunges from a fishbowl on a 27th-floor balcony toward the pavement, he registers brief glimpses of the lives occurring within, which Somer fleshes into vivid, interwoven strands. There’s Katie, a sensitive college student visiting the Seville to find out if her boyfriend loves her; meanwhile, Connor Radley, said boyfriend, clears his apartment of guilty debris (and the woman in his bed). A landlord named Jiminez attempts to fix the building’s broken elevator, forcing everyone to take the stairs—including social outcast Herman and Garth, a burly construction worker clutching a secret package. On the eighth floor, the heavily pregnant Petunia Delilah goes into labor alone while, several apartments over, Claire the shut-in loses her job at a phone-sex line. As their perspectives cycle through, the residents’ lives collide in unexpected ways. As she climbs the stairs, Katie passes Connor’s lover wearing her own nightshirt, forcing her to “stay amid her delusions in the stairwell” or confront her clearly unfaithful boyfriend. Petunia knocks on nearby doors for help, and Garth unwraps the package and changes into his beautiful dress, unaware that an unanticipated visitor may soon discover his secret. As the action in the Seville mounts, confrontations play out, lives hang in the balance, and identities are exposed. Somer has created well-developed characters and effectively transports the reader into their three-dimensional worlds; there are also genuinely touching moments, as when Claire and Herman attempt to deliver Petunia’s baby with the help of an emergency response worker. Somer stitches things together a bit too neatly, however. From Ian’s eventual salvation to Claire’s link to the emergency response worker, these coincidences detract from the story’s believability; nonetheless, the plot’s center of human kindness mostly makes up the difference.

Touching and well-written.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4668-6170-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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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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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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