A historically astute story with a memorable protagonist, undermined by overdone dialogue.


A British teenager connives his way into the Royal Navy during World War II in this debut novel.

After the German occupation of Poland, Britain officially declares war, forcing teenager Eddie Roberts from the London area to the countryside. He lives there begrudgingly until he makes the acquaintance of a young woman named Barbara Lewis. But then Eddie’s mother comes to fetch him home at his dying older brother’s request. Eddie returns to find that air raid shelters are being built for safety, and that his family is suffering financially. He takes the entrance exam for the Royal Navy College and passes, but his mother forbids his matriculation. However, he forges a birth certificate so that he can enlist nevertheless, inspired by a desire to travel the globe and also to find his friend, Jack Barrette, who was lost in the war. Eddie distinguishes himself with his bravery, but he’s injured during a torpedo strike on his vessel. He’s later selected for a secretive search-and-destroy mission in the Far East—a task he relishes as an opportunity to find Jack. However, he’s captured and kept at a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Thailand. Rhodes’ novel is, at its core, an adventure story: Eddie’s heart is so filled with wanderlust that it’s hard for readers to imagine him settling down, even in a time of peace. The author also stirringly captures the dawning reality of war for those on the homefront—particularly how the hope of averting disaster is swiftly replaced with brave resignation. But although the writing is frequently entertaining, Eddie almost exclusively communicates in witty quips and one-liners, which not only becomes tiresome, but also results in some overwritten dialogue. For example, when a girlfriend, Anita Barrett, tells him goodbye by saying, “You were the one who taught me how to fly, and were an excellent teacher,” he responds with an even sillier line: “Maybe so, but Peter Pan’s only flying on one wing, and has some growing up left to do.”

A historically astute story with a memorable protagonist, undermined by overdone dialogue.

Pub Date: March 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5255-0098-5

Page Count: 324

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2017

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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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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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