THE DARKNESS OF CORN

Strickland (The Standing Hills, 1987) offers another fine English rural village tale of the 19th century—a time when marriage for some women could be a vise, forever set in place by the ancient taboos and mores of an isolated society. Beatrice Randall, against the wishes of her gentle and intelligent family, married somewhat beneath her (in her bumptious youth, she would have married anyone who professed love) to miller Daniel Fayerdon, who sniffed out the business advantage of becoming related to Beatrice's corn-merchant brother-in-law. But he also enjoyed the prospect of a lady being his to ``order and humiliate.'' Now, Beatrice is miserable in the home of callous Daniel, who's greedy, boorish, and abusive to all—except his witchlike mother and a cat. Then, however, Beatrice finds a wonderful if dangerous joy with Boaz Holt, a homesteader whose wife, Esther, has left him, felled as she was by the grief at the loss of their child. Beatrice becomes pregnant by Boaz. Meanwhile, echoing Beatrice's disastrous marriage and aftermath is working woman Canader, who's been actually ``sold'' in a ``halter divorce'' (which Beatrice, hidden, witnessed) by her hated ne'er-do-well husband Nat to loving, tender Matthew Garth. The two women, grasping at joy instead of hatred, become friends. But Daniel is plotting evil for Matthew, and Beatrice and Boaz—even before Esther's return—realize that there was love between them ``but it was not for each other.'' Before a peaceful outcome, there's violence—and Daniel becomes a victim of his own ugly nature. A story of trapped women and haunted men within an almost articulate countryside—from the pale greens of spring to winds ``that could force men to their knees.'' Strickland writes with the sinewy simplicity and chimney-corner warmth of a riveting storyteller.

Pub Date: May 23, 1991

ISBN: 0-312-05844-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1991

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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