Paola sums it ups best: “It’s all that English reserve.”


A married British university lecturer in Palermo is hesitant about his affection for his adopted city—but convinced of his love for a similarly entangled Sicilian woman.

Handsome, easygoing, and dull in that way particular to British academics, Nick Stirling (or “Neek,” as his long-suffering, never-satisfied wife Paola calls him) goes off into the old part of town to retrieve the wallet that was picked from Paola on the city bus. The irascible Sicilian journalist cum Good Samaritan, Dante Genovese, who found the stolen item, is not at home when Nick arrives, but his attractive live-in lover, Lea Maselli, gentle, soulful photographer of Palermo street scenes, is, and the attraction between them is instant. When Nick gets home, the shrew Paola, instead of being grateful, rejects the wallet with a strident “I can’t stand contamination,” and the stage is set for Nick’s love affair with Lea and, indirectly, with the chaotic but magnificent city of Palermo. Characters and subplots swirl around the percolating affair: Nick and Paola’s daughter Guila is unhappy at school in Bologna, and their son Sandro is incommunicado. Paola’s mother is being sent off to a nursing home, Lea’s friend Flora is being harassed by the Mafia for protection money for her ceramic shop, Maurizio, the rug dealer down the street, is defying the ancient tradition and refusing to pay the local thugs. Newcomer Marks, a British journalist who, coincidentally, lives in Palermo, earnestly but too obviously intertwines events and people, making an effect like that of a stone skipping across a pond: only the surface is disturbed The difficult issues of adultery, betrayal, violence, and abandonment are glossed over; the result is a sweet love letter to Palermo and a plot that borders on fable.

Paola sums it ups best: “It’s all that English reserve.”

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-27864-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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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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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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