THE WISDOM OF STONES

A seventh, satisfying novel from Matthews (Power in the Blood, 1993) takes him back to his native Australia, where he traces the destinies of an unlikely trio that survives the rigors of the bush and the upheavals of World War II. The story begins in 1939 when a young Englishman, Clive Bagnall, arrives in Darwin to claim an inheritance. Redlands is not the thriving cattle ranch of Clive's imagination, but a tin shed on acres of acid red earth, sand palms, and gum trees. Bagnall is convinced his dead uncle has played him a dirty trick and turns to the local Crocodile Dundee, Doug Farrands, for help. They are joined at Redlands by Clive's pretty cousin Val, but soon the mÇnage Ö trois is disrupted by storm clouds in Europe. Clive enlists to fight Hitler, and Doug enlists when Japanese bombers batter Darwin. There follows a series of military adventures and outrageous coincidences in the southwestern Pacific. Clive and Doug are reunited on Dombi island, a Japanese prison camp, and meet their former pearl-diving friend Ishi aboard a POW ship. A submarine attack provides the mechanism for their escape, whereupon they sail 600 miles by dead reckoning in a lifeboat straight back to Darwin. Val, meanwhile, has been fatefully drawn into the ritual world of aborigines, who worship sacred stones and a man-eating crocodile. Matthews's aborigines are of the ``noble savage'' variety; in fact, only his three protagonists are fully drawn. While Matthews's characters tend towards stereotypes, his plots are highly entertaining and his portraits of the Northern Territory evoke the harshness of that hardscrabble land.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-017738-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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