IN THE HEART OF THE VALLEY OF LOVE

In an acutely moving second novel, Kadohata (The Floating World, 1989) again records the spin of worlds—of pain or maybe love. Some of it makes sense; some of it does not. (``Is the world as wiggly for you as it is for me?'') The time is 2052 in L.A., decaying in a disintegrating landscape where the stars have faded behind pollution, disease is common, raw violence is on the rise, and the gap between castes, government, police and people turning feral is unbridgeable. A 19-year-old Japanese-American woman hopes to survive. Narrator Francie leaves her aunt after the aunt's boyfriend has been arrested. She enjoyed observing their love, but ``with people dying or getting arrested...you hated to love people.'' Francie decides on college for something to do and works on the college paper. Here are her first friends in L.A. Besides Mark, soon to be her lover, there are: a former gang member, a misfit, a slapdash version of an investigative reporter, a minor celebrity who may or may not be a murderer, and Jewel, the chief editor, dying of cancer, who at first can't shake loose from an abusive lover. With Mark, Francie visits elders and a tattoo artist (tattooing is a proud matter like ``challenging God''), notes death and dyings, travels about, bribes with gas and water ``creds,'' while here and there Francie finds things to admire—a bead, lovemaking, an infrequent blue sky. At the last Francie and Mark will pay tribute to people dead, and with the last rays of sunlight hustle away from a gathering mob. Kadohata's 2052 L.A. is a strangely familiar worst scenario of environmental and political doomsayers, and it's darkly illuminated here by grandly scary to theatrical conceits. But Kadohata locates within the ``melancholy, fatigue and disappointment'' the tender heart of love—buried deep. A beautifully crafted novel that warns and hurts and delights.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-670-83415-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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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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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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