THE NIGHT TRAVELLERS

Though the period and the themes are those of the Vietnam era, a more perennial and primordial war—that between a mother and daughter—dominates this latest novel from Spencer (Jack of Diamonds, etc.). The times are the 60's and early 70's, and the settings range from North Carolina to Montreal to Vietnam, but the one constant is the relationship between Mary Kerr and her mother, Kate. Mary, a talented young dancer and gentle child, loves her father best, and when he dies of a heart attack, her mother as usual blames her. The two women move into a smaller home; Mary continues at school, resumes her dancing lessons (a concession from her disapproving mother); and Kate, a scientist, works on secret defense-related projects in the lab of the local university. One summer while staying with Kate's family (except for granny, all stereotype rednecks), Mary meets Jeff Blaise, a young activist increasingly involved in the antiwar movement. Jeff and Mary fall in love, which angers Kate: she not only disapproves of Jeff's politics but is sexually attracted to him. Then, as antiwar protests escalate, Jeff becomes even more involved, Mary continues to dance, and Kate marries the wealthy Fred of Philadelphia—but she can never let go of Mary—or Jeff. Fleeing the draft, the couple head for Montreal; a daughter is born; Jeff disappears; and Mary's attempted suicide gives Kate another opportunity to interfere. Still obsessed with Jeff, Kate makes Fred track down the hiding Jeff, and then has him sent off to Vietnam—with predictable consequences. Poor Mary is left to ``dance it out,'' as she always has. Vivid and nicely varied settings, but the politics seem dated, and Kate, the monster mother, remains an enigma—as does everyone else here, though they all talk up a storm and keep diaries. Readable but thin.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-670-83915-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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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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