Cleverly imagined and sophisticated in execution, this book may appeal to those who like magical realism and vampire...

HYDE

Levine debuts with a dark literary-fiction re-imagining of the macabre tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll’s an "alienist," precursor of the psychiatrist, but it’s Hyde who seizes control and rips the narrative open. Jekyll’s studied in Paris recently, supposedly treating a man with multiple personalities, but after returning from France, Jekyll has befuddled those who know him best with his machinations—Utterson, his attorney, Lanyon, a fellow physician, and Poole, his butler. It seems he’s brought chemicals that provoke an exchange of one personality for another, and secretly, Jekyll’s dosing himself. Levine’s rendering of bustling Victorian London, misty-cold winters and summers "filled with gauzy lemony light," provides the stage for Hyde’s midnight, fog-shrouded ramblings from tavern to brothel. Levine’s tale is dense, layered, sometimes obscure, its twisted origins resting with Jekyll’s dead father, who inflicted upon the boy perverse sexual manipulations and other cruelties. With the potion, the buried perversions flower as Hyde plunges into London’s debauched quarters, driven by Jekyll’s sexual deviations. Hyde beds Jeannie, 14-year-old street girl, and then installs her at a derelict mansion he’s leased, only to recognize he’s acting out Jekyll’s impotence in consummating a sexual relationship with married Georgiana, a lost love. Levine’s characters are fully realized, but many are abandoned in narrative cul-de-sacs: a housekeeper, a Tarot reader, a maid who has been raped. Levine’s masterful in his surrealistic observations of Hyde subsuming Jekyll. Hyde is all unfettered compulsion yet selfishly connected to his better nature because "[h]e was my hideout, my sanctuary." The fracture comes with Hyde’s murder of Jekyll’s acquaintance, Sir Danvers X. Carew, MP, part of the London Committee for the Suppression of Traffic in Young English Girls, after which Hyde-Jekyll retreat to an abandoned surgery with a dwindling supply of the chemical catalyst.

Cleverly imagined and sophisticated in execution, this book may appeal to those who like magical realism and vampire stories, but the latter should know that the book is more intellectual than thriller.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-19118-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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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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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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