A remarkable tale of political maturity, and its steep price.



In Flanders’ (An Interlude in Berlin, 2018, etc.) historical novel, an idealistic diplomat in the Kennedy administration becomes increasingly disillusioned by the government’s grim conduct of the Vietnam War.

Dillon Randolph was groomed to become “a member of the club, one of the young men on the rise, an Establishment favorite”; his family name is well known in American politics, and his father, John Custis Randolph, is currently a Democratic congressman. But Dillon is also a poet who’s published two collections of his work and has the soul of a romantic. In 1961, he takes a job at the State Department and joins a group of friends—they call themselves the “Group of Five”—all “moved by the young President’s stirring rhetoric and call for a new generation of leadership.” Dillon is specifically recruited to work for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research under the tutelage of its new “charismatic leader,” Roger Hilsman. It’s a position that gives him a privileged perch from which to see the unfolding of the war in Southeast Asia. When a fellow member of the Group of Five—Palmer Knox, a CIA agent—kills himself out of despair of his own involvement in the execution of the war, Dillon is faced with a grave moral crisis that challenges more than his politics. Flanders intelligently chronicles Dillon’s growing disenchantment, not only with the bloody, “grim pragmatism” that he encountered regarding the management of the war, but also the “fractures in the Great Society” to which he was so devoted after Kennedy’s assassination. Over the course of the novel, the author deftly portrays the tumultuous and complex political climate of the day, which simultaneously contained shimmering optimism about the future, dread of the dangers posed by the Cold War, and nihilistic espionage. The author closely hews to the historical record, but artfully weaves a poignant human element into it; both Dillon and Palmer are emotionally convincing as characters. Overall, this is a nuanced novel that offers a historically edifying account of a troubled time.

A remarkable tale of political maturity, and its steep price.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9908675-5-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Munroe Hill Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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