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HEATHCLIFF

THE LOST YEARS

A diffident but ultimately entertaining exploration of a famous literary lacuna.

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A debut historical novel fills a mysterious three-year gap in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

As a young, Roma-looking orphan, Heathcliff is adopted by Old Earnshaw and taken to live with his family at their estate, Wuthering Heights. In this first section, Drum closely follows Brontë’s description of events: Heathcliff becomes nearly inseparable from Old Earnshaw’s daughter, Catherine, but is abused and eventually forced into a servant’s role by his son, Hindley. Years pass, and one night Heathcliff overhears Cathy claiming that it would “degrade” her to marry him; distraught, he flees the estate and vows that he’ll make himself into a rich gentleman worthy of the woman he loves. From there, the book imagines what might have occurred over the next three years, which remain curiously unexplored in the classic novel. The author offers the possibility that Heathcliff finds work as a sailor in the Atlantic triangle trade, voyaging from the western coast of Africa to Jamaica and back to England. Along the way, Heathcliff experiences the rough conditions of a life at sea, the allures and hazards of exotic cultures, and the horrors of the slave trade. He witnesses the greed and malice of powerful men and stays true to his own values as a consequence. But upon his return to England, he preoccupies himself with exterior matters, hoping to transform into a fashionable society man. It’s a credit to the author that direct lines and scenes from Wuthering Heights fit seamlessly into the overall narrative. Each locale is vibrantly rendered, from the ship’s tight quarters to the sprawl and seduction of Victorian London. Heathcliff himself appears somewhat less vivid, partly due to the tale’s detached tone and its focus on adventure over interiority. In some ways, the book openly depicts brutality, as in an effective scene where slaves are branded. But it also shies away from hints of Heathcliff’s personal cruelty, instead envisioning him as blandly compassionate, naïve, and heroic. As a result, 19th- and 21st-century framings coexist in ways both successful and distracting.   

A diffident but ultimately entertaining exploration of a famous literary lacuna.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9911857-7-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Burning Books Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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