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HYDE

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

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. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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