A closely written, multidimensional coming-of-age novel that captures a time of whispers, elaborate codes, and not...

OUR YOUNG MAN

White (Jack Holmes and His Friend, 2012, etc.) returns with a playful yet searching novel of gay life in the New York of Ed Koch and Studio 54.

Guy, a plainly named young man, is anything but plain: discovered in Paris, he's at the top of the New York modeling world, and he's seemingly ageless, which works to his advantage not just in that business, but also in attracting a string of well-heeled lovers who are convenient but no paragons of true love—and indeed sometimes repellent (“They were introduced and the baron, ugly as a commissar, held on to Guy’s hand for an uncomfortably long interval”). A bit of an ingénue and a bit of a Candide, Guy is nonetheless a romantic—not exactly a winning outlook in the Fire Island of four decades past, just at the time that sexual abandon is about to give way to the sober, killing realities of AIDS. Writing with wit and gently arch humor, White explores the cultural differences between France and America, and he limns the distinctions between the gay tribes of Christopher Street (“tall, balding, skinny, pale, tattooed, almost as if they were vagrants who slept rough”) and Fire Island (“everyone was in a Speedo pulling a wagon of groceries across the bumpy boardwalk; you couldn’t tell the houseboys from the bankers”), between the Minorites and Athenians and Friends of Dorothy. The story proceeds by means of nicely paced dialogue interspersed with reflection and observation, to say nothing of Guy’s beauty tips—facial isometrics, Retin-A, “a daily glass of fattening orange juice”—as he builds a life in a time when restrictions are few and appetites endless, though one might have trouble feeling sorry for his narrow regime of visits to the gym, Europe, and Saks.

A closely written, multidimensional coming-of-age novel that captures a time of whispers, elaborate codes, and not inconsiderable danger.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62040-996-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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