Animates 1970s circus life via a sharp-eyed but unsympathetic lead.

Circus Girl

A NOVEL

A young woman rebels against her privileged upbringing during the summer of 1971.

Sarah Cunningham has no clear goals, just an intense restlessness and dissatisfaction with her life following her high school graduation. As a member of an upper-class suburban Boston family, she’s aware of the conventional path she could take, starting with attending college in the fall. But when her high school boyfriend takes a trip to Malaysia, she decides it’s time to seek an adventure of her own. She joins a traveling circus where she dons loose, flowing clothing, smokes pot, and soon falls for West, a 20-year-old elephant handler. She tackles different jobs in the circus and gets involved in the lives of the clowns, acrobats, and other performers. As the troupe wends its way through the South to its Florida winter quarters, Sarah experiences both the glittery and seamy sides of big-top life. She sees co-workers engage in covert criminal activity and participates in it herself to a degree. The Vietnam War intrudes; West and others dodge the draft; and Sarah witnesses rampant racism in the Southern states. At summer’s end, a crisis compels Sarah to reevaluate whether she should stay with the circus or go back to Boston. In her debut novel, Wellington vividly portrays both the traveling circus and the South in the early 1970s, and Sarah’s voice lends intimacy to these descriptions. Despite her powers of observation, Sarah is an unappealing lead. She befriends her fellow circus workers to satisfy her own need for excitement and independence without really taking responsibility for her actions. West comes across as more likable, despite his shady past and slim hopes for future.

Animates 1970s circus life via a sharp-eyed but unsympathetic lead.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4808-3468-2

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2016

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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