Dunmore follows the sure-handed Talking to the Dead (1997) with a complex and resonant portrait of a woman’s bruising confrontation with her past. At age 18, Simone had an autumn romance with Michael, a Vietnam vet who was tender when not preoccupied by the death he had seen, or by his aggressively meddlesome best buddy, Calvin. Simone held Michael as he cried out in his sleep, and fantasized about not returning to her native England, but some intangible combination of Calvin’s dogged intrusions and Michael’s inconsolable sense of loss wore her down, and she returned home. Twenty years later, Simone is a district judge in an English seaside village, hearing bankruptcies and custody cases, working hard to support her debt-ruined husband and two young sons. Then an ominous letter from Michael arrives, containing semi-lewd photographs, and announcing that he’s been searching for her for a long time. As Michael’s letters and calls escalate, Simone is severely shaken: Not only does she suspect career-damaging blackmail, but she’s flooded with stirring memories of her time with her troubled lover, and of her lonely childhood and the death of her father. And then Michael shows up in her remote village. He has turned bulky with age, after years in a mental hospital; he is as compelling in his pain as he is menacing. While Simone struggles to protect her family from disruption, she also reluctantly opens herself to her former lover and. in so doing, experiences the full weight of the losses she’s been running from for her whole life. Dunmore confidently mines a number of subtle themes—the emotional perils of rendering judgment, the lure of vulnerability, the surprising power of memory—in spare, graceful prose. A haunting and psychologically dense exploration, then, that reads as effortlessly as a standard-issue thriller.

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-316-19738-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1998

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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