An inventive combination of fresh storytelling and an adored classic.

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A housemaid—a minor character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—investigates the mystery of her father’s murder in this fantasy novel.

Among the fanciful events in Alice, the White Rabbit mistakes the title character at one point for Mary Ann, apparently his housemaid. In this imaginative take, Thorson (Tryfling Matters, 2015, etc.) tells a Wonderland story from Mary Ann’s point of view. Her fussy employer wants to give Queen Valentina the perfect Unbirthday present, so Mary Ann suggests that her father, Rowan Carpenter, a talented woodworker, could make one. She and Rowan aren’t close—he believes children should be both useful and far away—but she travels to collect the gift, a mirror with a carved frame. On arrival at her father’s house, she’s horrified to discover that someone in a red tunic is chopping off Rowan’s head. Mary Ann is determined to learn the truth and get justice for her father’s murder, so she finds incognito employment and starts investigating. She uncovers information about Rowan’s business partner, a walrus, and learns that the mirror is a magic portal. She also aids young Sir Rufus in slaying the Jabberwock (“Lots of people teach things about which they haven’t the slightest inkling”) and in searching for his lost sense of humor. Mary Ann will discover more than one shocking truth before she’s done, if she can hold onto her own head. Thorson has a brilliant idea in mixing the world of Alice with a murder mystery. The result is a demented but internally consistent detective story—the motive, means, and opportunity make sense. What’s more, although tackling a pastiche of a well-loved children’s book is a daunting task, Thorson succeeds beautifully. She deftly captures Carroll’s absurdity, wordplay, and unsettling strangeness and rings some changes of her own. Here’s Mary Ann getting housemaid instructions: “So start with the fireplaces. Then fluster the moldings, massage the brass, milk the jugs, tickle the ivory and when you’re quite done with that, report back and I’ll give you some real work to do.”

An inventive combination of fresh storytelling and an adored classic.

Pub Date: June 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9838045-8-1

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Waterhouse Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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

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