Scott has crafted an understated, atmospheric historical novel as well as an artful mystery set in an era of steamer ships...

DE POTTER'S GRAND TOUR

A dilettante, scholar manqué and artifact collector who may or may not be a member of the Belgian aristocracy reinvents himself in late-19th-century New York, embarking on a career as an international tour guide with the assistance of his devoted American wife.

Arriving in New York in the 1870s, Armand de Potter is an ambitious immigrant who tries his hand at various business schemes before taking a position as a French teacher in an upstate girls school, where he impresses all with his erudition and patrician bearing. There, he meets his future wife, the genteel and competent Amy, whom he rechristens Aimée. The two found De Potter Tours, escorting wealthy American and British tourists to exotic locales, arranging all facets of the experience to minimize inconvenience for the travelers and enlightening them on the finer points of history and the former glories of fallen empires. Meanwhile, Armand seeks out looted antiquities and struggles to be recognized as a scholar and important collector by the academic establishment. His yearning for the approval and respect of high society, and his great fear of being exposed as an intellectual fraud, or worse, have tragic consequences. The story opens with a mention of Armand’s disappearance at sea in 1905, and the rest of the book sets about constructing the intriguing back story and sad aftermath of this calamitous event. Scott (Follow Me, 2009, etc.) builds the tale in layers, providing the perspectives of both the self-mythologizing Armand, who sees no escape from impending financial ruin and ignominy, and the perplexed Aimée as she attempts to come to terms with the sudden loss of her husband and solve the mystery of his disappearance. Though his motives are carefully laid out, Armand remains somewhat unknowable, perhaps by design; Aimée, with nothing to hide, is a more developed and fully realized character.

Scott has crafted an understated, atmospheric historical novel as well as an artful mystery set in an era of steamer ships and steam trains, when tourism was new and world travel was a glamorous and sometimes-perilous adventure.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-16233-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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