TOMORROW IN THE BATTLE THINK ON ME

Another intriguing psychodrama of sex, guilt, and social satire from the prize-winning Spanish author whose fiction in English translation includes All Souls and A Heart So White (both 1996). First published in 1994, this novel (which has itself won major international literary awards) explores the engagingly dysfunctional mind and heart of Victor Frances, a successful screenwriter, and a bland usurper of things and people that don't belong to him—not unlike Shakespeare's Richard III (the source of Mar°as's exceedingly witty title). The novel begins with a bang, so to speak, when Victor's mistress Marta De†n dies of a heart attack in bed, precluding their usual lovemaking—and it then spins off into amusingly unpredictable directions as Victor observes Marta's funeral from a safe distance, then eludes the suspicions of her angrily bereaved family (most notably Marta's husband Eduardo, who pursues, Javert-like, his late wife's unknown lover). Mar°as's portrayal of Victor is convincingly complex. Before absconding from his love nest, he prepares breakfast for Marta's sleeping two-year- old son. And, in a dazzling comic scene, Victor (who's inexplicably drawn toward intimacy with Marta's distraught family) patiently endures the near-lunatic ravings of Marta's self-important father Don Juan Tellez. Further delicious complications are added by Victor's ongoing and deeply confused dÇtente with his ex-wife Celia. Unfortunately, all these splendidly handled elements are subsumed in the thick rhetorical fog cast over the novel by Victor's exhaustively extended digressive monologues, which are filled with apposite but monotonous Shakespearean quotations, many of which take the form of long nonstop sentences and paragraphs. There's a brilliant fictional imagination at work here, but this novel tests even the most willing reader's patience. All the same, Mar°as's is a world-class talent, one always worth reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-100276-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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