THE BIRD ARTIST

Adultery, murder, and an arranged marriage are the meat in this exceptionally strong, classy period melodrama by the author of the acclaimed The Northern Lights (1987) and the short-story collection Kiss in the Hotel Joseph Conrad (1989). This is a story about quiet country people who suddenly lose control of their lives; about the gap between the knowable, external world and our unknowable secret selves. Narrator Fabian Vas, born in 1891, lives in the remote settlement of Witless Bay in Newfoundland. His father, Orkney, is a semiliterate carpenter; his mother, Alaric, is well-educated, dissatisfied with her lot. Fabian is a talented bird artist who will eventually sell his drawings to magazines. The center of his life is Margaret Handle. When Fabian is 16, the strong-willed mail boat pilot's daughter initiates him into sex; it is always Margaret who calls the shots. Fabian's passivity will be his downfall. He goes along with his parents' bizarre scheme to marry him off to Cora Holly, a cousin they've never met, even though he's aware that Margaret considers it a betrayal. More flagrant is Alaric's betrayal of Orkney. While he's away on a bird-harvesting expedition, she begins a brazen affair with gloomy, antisocial Botho August, the lighthouse keeper. All hell breaks loose on Orkney's return. The astonished Fabian finds he has shot Botho dead with Margaret's revolver; the Vas family flees justice. Though the murder and flight have high-wattage intensity, it is Margaret's story that resonates the most, with the lyric force of a ballad. Norman is a superb storyteller who makes normality and nightmare equally convincing. We believe in the wrenching disorder precisely because the hitherto orderly rhythms have been as steady as the ticking of a clock. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-374-11330-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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