Often unsettling, sometimes funny, always meticulously observed; a quietly intoxicating novel that resists easy answers.


Tennant-Moore’s sharp debut follows a defiantly self-destructive young woman—powerfully intelligent and profoundly lost—as she grapples with identity, spirituality, and purpose.

Elsie, recently returned from a miserable year in Paris—her alternative to college—and now reveling in her own free fall, has a job writing obituaries for her small-town Southern California paper and an explosive relationship with an alcoholic rockabilly guitarist/drug dealer named Jared (“Here was an answer to the question of what to do with my life,” she notes, bleakly). Trying to escape both Jared and her current existence, she buys a ticket to Sri Lanka. “I had known other versions of myself that allowed me to hope the situation I was in would not be my life,” she explains. Sri Lanka, appealing for both its incongruity—“a tropical paradise that was also a recent war zone”—and its distance, offers a kind of desperate hope. This could be the beginning of an exhausted cliché: young, pretty American woman has transformative experience traveling through Third World country; meets local people; finds meaning and purpose. But it isn’t—this is not that book. Elsie does develop meaningful connections, of course, but even her most intimate interactions are fraught, warm but complicated; upon returning home, she is not transformed. “I felt I could handle the wrong choices now, that I could live the old life in a new way,” she explains: more Jared, more drifting, a fledgling French translation project, another man, another troubled relationship. And then a letter arrives that draws her back to Sri Lanka for a trip that is both deeper and more demanding than the first. With bracing insight, Tennant-Moore captures not only Elsie’s inner life, but also her physical existence; the novel stands out not only for its emotional precision, but for its incredible attention to the visceral realities of having a body.

Often unsettling, sometimes funny, always meticulously observed; a quietly intoxicating novel that resists easy answers.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90326-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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