Thoughtful but awkwardly written debut about a young woman's emotional awakening. The doleful tone, unfortunately, is...

HUNGER

A frustrated cook leads a flavorless life—until she leaves her husband.

Anna Rossi loved Michael once, when he was a brilliant student and great kisser. But that was before he became a stuffed-shirt lawyer with friends and colleagues who always ask her if she majored in home ec. She's tired of being patronized and weary of her loveless marriage, but her daughter Sara is only six, too young to handle the stress of a divorce. When Anna talks Michael into a vacation at a New Hampshire inn, hoping for a reconciliation, the two discover, not surprisingly, that there really isn't anything left to say. Anna stays on to work in the kitchen, keeping Sara with her while Michael reluctantly returns to Chicago. She soon strikes up a friendship with James, the inn's sous-chef and a man who knows his way around a mushroom. His knack for fine cooking and his sensual good looks impress Anna, and it's not long before the two become lovers, though Michael continues besieging his wife with eloquent letters, wondering where they went wrong and answering his own questions all in one breath. Anna broods in silence and doesn't reply as she contemplates her failed marriage and compares it to that of her unhappy parents, throwing in, for good measure, every wrong turn she ever took and the least slight she ever suffered. Her mother's sudden stroke and subsequent disability compel Anna to make the most of her life while she's still young enough to enjoy it, and so the agonizing process of divorce begins, though it's instigated by the understandably jealous Michael. In due time, he and Anna part ways forever, and she begins her life anew, doing what she loves at last.

Thoughtful but awkwardly written debut about a young woman's emotional awakening. The doleful tone, unfortunately, is unrelenting.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-87754-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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THE SECRET HISTORY

The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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