FATHER MELANCHOLY'S DAUGHTER

Godwin continues her probes into the chimeric stuff of family bonds—bonds within which old passions and deceits and people and affections can tower into myth. Here, the daughter of an Episcopalian priest survives (with her father) a stunning loss, then labors through childhood and youth under the burden of a deep, demanding love for an adored parent—until at last she discovers an identity outside that love. Ruth Gower, the charming, pretty young wife of the Reverend Walter Gower, priest of St. Cuthbert's, and mother of six-year-old Margaret, simply leaves one day to travel with old friend Madelyn, an abrasive, idiosyncratic artist. The Ruth who had once written Walter that "I don't want to be trivial," however, will have a fatal accident a year later in England. (Would she really have come home?) Meanwhile, that last breakfast with Ruth will be remembered by Margaret as "that glowing little moment of paradise when I walk towards her light." But there had been darkness, too, in the child's world—surely there was a witch in the closet! But most especially she and Ruth had lived with Waiter's special darkness, his "Black Curtain of recurring depressions." Even at age six Margaret planned somehow to lead him to the light: "It would be my responsibility." And so it was for the next 16 years. Throughout years of adoring, respecting and being there for a truly good, witty man and fine priest, Margaret matures, share's Waiter's scholarly interests, weathers the endearing-to-exasperating incursions of church pillars, rejects one love, yearns for another's, while all this time the beloved father—together with whom Ruth was "kept alive"—becomes a burden of obligation. At the last, after Waiter's symbolically martyred death, Margaret, in grief, drives her demons from the closet—and, with a spiritual knowledge of her own, rediscovers Ruth and a new self beyond that of clergyman's dutiful daughter. With warmly accessible characters of Trollopian clarity, much attractive erudite dialogue, a shrewd appreciation of the pull of both earthly and divine grace in word and posture, and with a bright center of spiritual substance: a handsomely rewarding novel.

Pub Date: March 18, 1990

ISBN: 0380729865

Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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