BRASS RING

A swell women's page-turner by Chamberlain (Keeper of the Light, 1992, etc.), in which incest survivors overcome their past and proceed through pain, growth, and mystery toward a syrupy happy ending. As children, Claire and Vanessa Harte spent summers with their grandfather, who carved horses for a real carousel in his barn. Claire has only wonderful memories—in sharp contrast to Vanessa, who was raped in the carousel's green chariot and has led a different existence altogether. Thirty years later, Claire and her husband, Jon Mathias, are an enviable supercouple who head a Virginia rehabilitation foundation. Jon has been in a wheelchair since his teens; it was Claire—with her gift for seeing the silver lining in every gray cloud—who turned his life around. Driving home on a snowy night, they see a young woman poised on the edge of the Harper's Ferry bridge. Unable to save her, Claire watches her dive to her death, looking, as the street lamps shine on her snow- covered body, like a falling crystal angel. That image leads Claire to flashbacks. Her perfect world begins to crack, and she begins an affair with the suicide's brother, with whom she feels safe enough to conduct the terrifying investigation into her past. In Seattle, Vanessa has struggled through alcoholism and drug abuse to become a doctor and an activist for molested children. She has a devoted lover and finally feels strong enough to face her perpetrators. Chamberlain manages a lot of plot with great skill, strengthening her story by using devices more common to action thrillers and mysteries and by telling about carousels, adolescent medicine, and how to have sex with the disabled. Unfortunately, her denouement, in a Senate hearing room, in front of a TV camera and a congressional pedophile, becomes suddenly very pat, like a successful summer movie. Nevertheless, ripe storytelling that deserves a prominent place in the beach bag. (Literary Guild alternate selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-017612-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994

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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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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