THE END OF THE BATTLE

Presumably the last of the Evelyn Waugh novels dealing with the adventures of Englishman Guy Crouchback immediately prior, during and just after the Second World War, The End Of The Battle gleams with all the old audacity, macabre romanticism and cadaverous jollity which have made Waugh probably the supreme satirist of our day. For those not familiar with the previous Crouchback pursuits, the author has provided a synopsis, and though that's a curt and crowded affair and the opening pages rather stuffy, nevertheless as one gets into the odd-named, odd-ball characters and many-faceted plot the grand pattern becomes clear. Essentially Waugh is following his representative last-man-of honor hero through the Battle of Britain and using him as a guide to its nonsense and its glory. After movingly describing the funeral of Crouchback's Catholic father, the author then brilliantly tackles the return of Crouch-back's former wife, the much-married, breathless Virginia, who-pregnant from one of her lovers- gets Guy to the altar once more, takes up religion, motherhood and the good life, only to meet death in the London blitz. During that time Crouchback has been away serving UNRRA and negotiating with Tito's partisans on behalf of some Jewish refugees. What Waugh has to say both of Americans generally and the invidiousness of Dalmatian commissars particularly should infuriate the jingoists of either camp. But whether he is doing vignettes of Guy's Halberdier regiment or his quaint bachelor uncle or a daemonic friend who becomes a phony best-selling author or behind-the-scenes glimpses of battle stations, nursing retreats and social and sexual wartime mores, Mr. Waugh is always lumecane and incorrigible. And beneath the cold sparkle and baroque charm and chatter, the serious render cannot but help find real people and really human, if worldly, concern. A palpable hit.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 1962

ISBN: 0316926205

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1961

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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