An intoxicating, unsettling masterpiece.

BITTER ORANGE

Fuller’s (Swimming Lessons, 2017, etc.) latest novel is seductive on the outside, but hidden within is a sinister story that considers the terrifying lengths people will go to escape their pasts.

It’s the summer of 1969, and for the first time in 39 years, Frances Jellico is free of any routine. One month ago, she buried her mother, the callous woman she’d been bound to since birth. When she’s commissioned to survey and write a report on the garden architecture of Lyntons, an old English country house outside London, Frances leaves her home, and turbulent past, to settle into the mansion’s furnished attic for the summer. From the moment she meets Cara and Peter, the attractive couple staying in the rooms below hers, Frances is besotted. Peter, she learns, has been hired to assess the foundation and state of the house, which, after years of neglect following the war, is in poor condition. Frances becomes enraptured by the carefree, unbridled passion Peter and Cara seamlessly exude. All her life, she has yearned for that sense of freedom—to be unburdened of her loneliness, her insecurities, her endless guilt. After discovering a peephole in her bathroom floor, Frances takes to watching their intimate lives play out from above. Equally intrigued by Frances, the couple invites her into their lives, eager to share their desires and secrets with a captive audience. The three spend their languid days indulging in decadent meals, drinking, sunbathing, and reveling in the frivolity of one another’s company. But as Fuller’s novel progresses, Frances’ friendship with the couple turns claustrophobic. The stories Cara and Peter have fed Frances slowly begin to unfurl, revealing a labyrinth of deceptions that Frances finds herself in the middle of. When strange things begin to happen throughout the house, Frances realizes she knows nothing about Cara and Peter. Much like Lyntons, they’re “beautiful on the surface, but look a little closer and everything is decaying, rotting, falling apart.” In the vein of Shirley Jackson’s bone-chilling The Haunting of Hill House, Fuller’s disturbing novel will entrap readers in its twisty narrative, leaving them to reckon with what is real and what is unreal.

An intoxicating, unsettling masterpiece.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947793-15-6

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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