An elegant, evocative debut, by a 26-year-old Australian storywriter.


It’s 1854, and a fragile 16-year-old girl is forced to leave England for Australia—an arduous voyage she is unlikely to survive.

Sarah Garnett, homesick, beset by nightmares and waking visions of the lover she longs for, is confined below decks with other unmarried women. Their life aboard the half-rotten ship is a delicately drawn parody of Victorian gentility: they fashion paper roses; promenade occasionally under the watchful eye of their stern chaperone; confide in each other, spy on each other, fight, and wonder about the unknown new world they sail toward. Madness is commonplace: the matron who guards what remains of their virtue has abandoned her own sons in New South Wales to pursue ghosts: her husband and baby died at sea and she can no longer live on land. A sailor who dared to cook and eat an albatross has gone completely insane, rolling in treacle and feathers and howling in misery. Disease is a constant threat, and an outbreak of typhus carries off more than one hapless victim. One of their number gives birth in secret to an illegitimate daughter, then dies within hours. The grieving young women open her trunk in search of mementos, and find only a moldering wedding dress. Manners and minds dissolve in the suffocating heat of the tropical latitudes, but Sarah clings to sanity by writing letter after letter to her parents, remembering her childhood idylls in the English countryside with her brother and sister—and with Richard, the cousin she was not permitted to marry. Imagining her pregnancy as a fish she swallowed that now trembles inside her, Sarah finally succumbs to a feverish madness of her own, lost in aqueous hallucinations. The irony of this is not lost on her: Mrs. Garnett, her mother, feared any contact with water, refusing even to drink it, but willingly set her daughter adrift on an ocean that the girl would cross but once.

An elegant, evocative debut, by a 26-year-old Australian storywriter.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-393-32160-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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