Fans of Fraser know what they’re in for—and they’ll have a grand romp.

THE REAVERS

The rowdy, bawdy adventures of a charming cad, adept with both heart-slicing blade and heart-melting words.

British author Fraser (1925–2008), the phenomenally popular creator of Harry Flashman (Flashman on the March, 2005, etc.), really has only one character in his armory, the rogue whom men admire and women faint over, even as they recognize that he’s the sort mummy warned them against. In this instance, the rogue in question is a light-fingered reaver, a sort of junior highwayman out on the frontier of Scotland and England, who finds his merry days complicated by regicidal conspiracy, the grand larceny of glimmering jewels and a rather luscious gentlewoman named, lest the point be missed, Lady Godiva. Hijinks, japes, jests and jousts ensue. The specifics are beside the point, for a Fraser novel is an excuse to indulge in goofery. This book, as the narrator says, presents “an all-star cast of steely-eyed heroes, noble ladies, unspeakable villains, gorgeous wantons, corrupt creeps, maniacs, freebooters, freeloaders, and hordes of colourful extras, in a variety of Great Locations.” He left out the Spanish torturers, twisting their waxed mustachios in evil glee, and a few discards from the cast of Braveheart, but Fraser’s catalog about covers it. As if this were all not enough, this, like any Fraser novel, is a battlefield littered with dead puns (of two hanged cows, for instance, “ye couldnae tell one frae the udder”), obvious names (“the reigning Scottish Traitor of the Year, Lord Anguish”) and tattered bodices (“where petrified soldiery had stood, there were now forty voluptuous dancing girls in gauzy trousers and flimsy veils, undulating in beauteous bewilderment”).

Fans of Fraser know what they’re in for—and they’ll have a grand romp.

Pub Date: April 24, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-307-26810-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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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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