THE NAKED MADONNA

Former Norwegian publisher Wiese gets into the act himself with his first novel—a strange mishmash that seems to be plotted along the boundary that separates magical realism from hagiography. Most of the action here takes place in church, or hard by. The narrator is a Vatican librarian, not a priest but still very much a man of the Church, whose work with rare manuscripts becomes unexpectantly relevant to contemporary affairs in 1989 when a Perugia church collapses during the ceremony of dedication, killing nearly 700 worshippers. The death count is so high partly as a result of the fame surrounding a Renaissance portrait of the Madonna and Child that hangs over the altar of the church, a portrait that had been discovered by the narrator only a few years before in an out-of-the-way corridor of the Vatican Library. Later, the narrator also discovers a 500-year-old manuscript that recounts the weird and tragic story of the painting's creation, a tale that itself becomes the bulk of the novel. Written by an anonymous 15th- century ``storyteller,'' the manuscript relates how the portrait was the work of an obscure artist's doomed love for his model, a beautiful country girl whose shadowy past was gradually brought to light with calamitous results. The later history of the painting and its owners, laboriously pieced together by the narrator, makes it sound more like the Hope diamond than the PietÖ, and it even begins to exert its curse upon the narrator himself, who manages to figure out what's going on and get out of the way in time. The ending, of course, is the beginning, which seems to be the finale of the Madonna's malevolence. Too spooky for words: The Borges-like intricacies of the narrative, with its spurious manuscripts and intellectual sleuthing, are ill-suited to the tale itself, which is basically a horror story. Subtlety becomes soporific rather than intriguing in this guise.

Pub Date: April 14, 1996

ISBN: 1-86046-025-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more