SLIPPER

A satisfying blend of history and myth that breathes new life into “Cinderella.”

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A loving re-creation of a well-known fairy tale.

The story, set in the mid-1600s, begins in earnest when Olivia, the fifth Hempstead daughter, catches the eye of a local baron, who subsequently “ha[s] her in the bushes.” A few months later, when it becomes obvious that Olivia is pregnant, Lord and Lady Hempstead send her away from their grand home to hide their shame. But after the young woman dies during childbirth, her loving nursemaid, Bessie, takes the baby—named Lucinda—back to her grandparents and convinces them to let them both live in a high, secluded wing of the manor. Unfortunately, the return to the family home is a mixed blessing for young Lucinda, who’s later put to hard labor by her relatives and forced to deal with condescension and abuse from the other children. Throughout, it’s Bessie—a veritable fairy godmother—who protects and guides the young child, whom one of her half siblings derisively labels “Lucy-cinder.” If this is all starting to sound familiar, it should, because Velmans’ (Jessaloup’s Song, 2011, etc.) ingenious novel is, at its core, an origin story for Cinderella. The author says in a note that she sees her project as a kind of tardy vindication of Charles Perrault, the 17th-century French author who’s often credited as the father of the fairy tale. (Perrault himself looms large as a character in the latter parts of the book.) Many years before the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen put pen to paper, Perrault gave the world Sleeping Beauty, Mother Goose, Little Red Riding Hood, and a host of other iconic characters. So although this novel mainly pays specific homage to "Cinderella," Velmans laces the book with references to those other tales. The author builds this network with remarkable care, and although the resulting novel is a complex web of influences, it’s never a confounding one. Furthermore, she writes in a delicate, ornate prose style that has a transporting effect, bringing readers back to Perrault’s time and nestling them in a thoroughly alluring narrative.  

A satisfying blend of history and myth that breathes new life into “Cinderella.”

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9994756-0-7

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Van Horton Books

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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