Were there women in the professions in 1906? Yes. Were they uncommon? Yes. Were any of them architects? Apparently. Were...

A RACE TO SPLENDOR

Floors pitch violently, buildings collapse, San Francisco disintegrates and bosoms heave.

Were there women in the professions in 1906? Yes. Were they uncommon? Yes. Were any of them architects? Apparently. Were they full of bodice-ripping passion? Well, for that, you’ll need to turn to this sometimes steamy, more often merely humid yarn. Amelia Hunter Bradshaw is a feminist pioneer, quite happy to shock the good citizens of California with her demands for suffrage and her perky proclamations: “It’s a new century, Mr. Thayer, and we ‘females,’ as you put it, are quite capable of seeing to our own affairs.” So it appears, though a brawny pair of arms and hungry set of lips have their place in the proceedings, too. Amelia knows her way around an I-beam, as we learn courtesy of Ware’s constant exposition: “From what we’ve seen so far,” Amelia’s partner in the building trades asserts, “it looks as if we’ll have to start in the basement and methodically work our way to the sky with reinforcing construction,” to which our heroine replies: “At least the basement’s already cleared of rubble and shorn up with support posts.” Alas, the prose bumps along like a bowling ball descending a shaky staircase, as witness the opening sentence: “James Diaz Thayer scooped the deck of cards bearing his initials into a pile on top of the late Charlie Hunter’s desk in the bowels of Nob Hill’s celebrated Bay View Hotel.” Anyone up for diagramming that one? Things don’t get much better, though there are some competently imagined scenes of death and destruction, and even of smooching. The tale grinds along like a right-lateral strike-slip fault to a long-awaited end that, regrettably, does not include much elastic rebound. In her favor, Amelia is nicer than Howard Roark and a worse shot than Leon Czolgosz, but that’s about the best that can be said for this book.

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4022-2269-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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