Delicious, frivolous and occasionally ludicrous.

THREE HORSES

A keenly romantic tale of loss and solace from Italian novelist de Luca (God’s Mountain, 2002, etc.).

The book’s unnamed hero is the archetypal man in flight from his past after his true love, Dvora, is assassinated during a war in Argentina. First he is a lone guerilla, fighting the regime that murdered Dvora, then a fugitive living off the meager land in Patagonia. Smuggled to the Falklands by a sympathetic ship’s captain, he is rescued from his military pursuers by invading British troops. This part of the story is told in flashbacks. The hero is now living in an Italian town where he works as a gardener, intimate only with his plants and with the books he reads every night after work. As the novel begins, he embarks on an affair with Laila, an enigmatic young prostitute. The two have an instant, mystical connection: She reads his thoughts, and they converse in riddles and images. The book is characterized by an extravagant, impractical gorgeousness. Characters speak in weird, sententious epigrams; every gesture is charged with significance. The plot is contrived to the point of amiable silliness. As in a B movie, Laila can’t quit her job as a prostitute without forfeiting her life. But she can no longer bear to sell her body after feeling the hands of a man she loves, so she resolves to murder her pimp. The hero gallantly resolves to bump him off on her behalf without her knowledge, but a minor character winds up doing it instead as a gesture of thanks for the hero’s kindness.

Delicious, frivolous and occasionally ludicrous.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59051-135-2

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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