Another in the growing list of intriguing and accomplished novels from Down Under, and a welcome US debut.

READ REVIEW

ANGEL ROCK

The disappearance of a four-year-old boy in the menacing bush country is the catalyst for this engrossing melodrama—its author’s second novel, and winner of the Australian/Vogel Literary Award.

Williams focuses initially on 12-year-old Tom Ferry, the de facto guardian of his younger stepbrother Flynn—and the object of both parental scorn and his own agonized guilt when, upon returning home after a day at work with his stepfather (Flynn’s father), Tom’s attention is distracted by a wounded kangaroo, and Flynn is nowhere to be seen, shortly thereafter fully lost. A widespread search for both missing boys brings Gibson, a burnt-out Sydney detective, to Angel Rock, after Tom had stumbled alone into a neighbor’s yard, exhausted and distracted, unable to remember anything beyond hazy impressions of a “figure without a face” lurking in the trees, watching the two brothers. Williams squeezes maximum tension from this arresting premise, expanding the focus to explore the histories of several variously connected Angel Rock families, and linking Flynn’s disappearance to the suicides of two local girls: one a runaway to Sydney, the other the daughter of a fundamentalist family whose secrets are concealed in the religious colony known as New Eden. The novel also offers an appealing picture of the likable Tom Ferry’s conflicted approach to maturity (his scenes with a grandmotherly storekeeper and with the adolescent daughter of a stoical police sergeant are especially striking), which balances and helpfully vitiates the clichéd portrayal of Gibson, an alcoholic loner pursued by his own family ghosts and personal demons. And the image of the craggy landmark for which Angel Rock is named—a lonely eminence where spirits seem to walk—draws the story’s sprawling webwork of myths and legends, secrets and lies to it like a powerful magnet.

Another in the growing list of intriguing and accomplished novels from Down Under, and a welcome US debut.

Pub Date: June 18, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-41451-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.

BERLIN

BOOK ONE

This black-and-white historical narrative, written and illustrated by Lutes, collects eight volumes of his ongoing comic book set in Berlin during the late ’20s. It’s a multilayered tale of love and politics at the beginning of the Nazi era, as Lutes follows the stories of three characters: a 20ish art student from the provinces, a textile worker, and a young Jewish radical. Their lives intersect in only the subtlest way—Lutes depicts them crossing paths at some great public events, such as the Mayday march that closes this part of his book. And Lutes plays with perspective in a visual sense as well, jumping from point-of-view frames to overhead angles, including one from a dirigible flying above in honor of the Kaiser. At street level, Lutes integrates his historical research smoothly, and cleverly evokes the sounds and smells of a city alive with public debate and private turmoil. The competing political factions include communists, socialists, democrats, nationalists, and fascists, and all of Lutes’s characters get swept up by events. Marthe, the beautiful art student, settles in with Kurt, the cynical and detached journalist; Gudrun, the factory worker, loses her job, and her nasty husband (to the Nazi party), then joins a communist cooperative with her young daughters; Schwartz, a teenager enamored with the memory of Rosa Luxembourg, balances his incipient politics with his religion at home and his passion for Houdini. The lesser figures seem fully realized as well, from the despotic art instructor to the reluctant street policeman. Cosmopolitan Berlin on the brink of disaster: Lutes captures the time and place with a historian’s precision and a cinematographer’s skill. His shifts from close-ups to fades work perfectly in his thin-line style, a crossbreed of dense-scene European comics and more simple comics styles on this side of the Atlantic.

An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-896597-29-7

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

THE CANTERBURY TALES

A RETELLING

Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more