A familiar plot refreshingly enhanced by its setting during the Revolutionary War, which is depicted realistically and with...

THIS DAY IS OURS

A love story set in Philadelphia during the American Revolution explores an unlikely pairing between an aristocratic woman with loyalist attachments and an unrefined rebel agitator.

In 1776, Philadelphia is a tinderbox of contentious political division—the city is torn between those who reaffirm their loyalty to the British crown and those who angrily demand political independence from it. And besides the tension created by the gathering clouds of war, the city is terrorized by a bandit known as Jack Flash who only targets wealthy loyalists and who is seen by the poor as a “hero.” One night, Jack Flash purloins a diamond- and sapphire-studded necklace from Alexandra Pennington, a recently widowed loyalist of exquisite elegance and beauty, a bold move that puts pressure on an otherwise feckless Sheriff Owen DeWalt to bring the culprit to justice. Meanwhile, Alexandra makes the acquaintance of Dalton Jameson, an “uneducated and humbly born” horse breeder who nevertheless impresses her with his “sincerity” and “gallantry.” Dalton is also an enthusiastic advocate of independence, and so despite their obvious admiration for each other, a remarkably implausible romantic coupling ensues, though Jeannette (A Devil of a Time, 2014, etc.) skillfully renders the possibility believable. But Charles Villard, a sophisticated descendant of British nobility, has eager designs on Alexandra as well and loathes the closeness that forms between her and Dalton so much that he’s willing to ruin his reputation: “ ‘Listen, you side-slip of a whoremonger. I’ve never liked you, and I especially dislike having you near things that belong to me. I’ll say this but once,’ he hissed. ‘Leave what’s mine alone, or you’ll have hell to pay.’ ” Jeannette not only manages to make the affections between Alexandra and Dalton credible—that in itself is no mean authorial feat—but also develops both characters with great depth and sensitivity. While an ocean of difference divides their lives, they do share something important: painful personal histories of adversity. Dalton was compelled to leave England after a romance went wrong, and Alexandra was forced into a marriage of convenience after her father left the family in financial ruin. The plot itself is fairly formulaic—an uncommon love swims against the currents of convention. But the backdrop of the Revolutionary War adds a fresh twist; the author’s portrayal of the political contentions that cleave Philadelphia is historically rigorous and dramatically gripping. Unfortunately, the tale as a whole unfolds at a glacial pace—it’s simply not necessary that this novel is nearly 500 pages. In addition, readers will confidently guess Jack Flash’s identity from the work’s very beginning. Still, while Jeannette’s prose doesn’t reach any poetical heights, she does achieve a linguistic authenticity for the period that helpfully contributes to a full immersion in the engaging story.

A familiar plot refreshingly enhanced by its setting during the Revolutionary War, which is depicted realistically and with great intelligence.

Pub Date: July 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-08-277653-3

Page Count: 561

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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