THE MANIKIN

Like a consummate magician, Scott (Arrogance, 1990; Various Antidotes, 1994; etc.) conjures up a magic domain in rural New York where a large house, its strange contents, and a white Arctic owl enthrall—and then finally expel—the house's inhabitants. Built in the early 1900s on two thousand remote acres by Henry Craxton, the ``Henry Ford of Natural History,'' Manikin was both a home for his collection of stuffed animals and an expensive indulgence. Nothing was spared in building the house or landscaping the grounds, and a large staff was employed to maintain both in style. Craxton soon died, however, and his widow, fortunes much reduced, lived permanently at the Manikin, while the Craxtons' only surviving son, Hal, dissipated his mother's money in continuous travel. The novel begins in 1927 with Mrs. Craxton alive but frail, and the servants secure in their isolated kingdom. When Junket, the teenaged son of estate manager Lore, innocently shoots a white Arctic owl, Scott subtly introduces the somewhat gothic but still intelligent note that's at the heart of the story. The owl, mounted by the malevolent Boggio, Craxton's resident master taxidermist, is set in a sinister pose—it appears to be screaming—in the master bedroom. Boggio has his reasons, which become clear at the end, but the owl's death begins the unravelling of the magic kingdom. A young woman seduces Peg, the housekeeper's daughter, who's then raped by an intruder; Mrs. Craxton changes her will and dies; Hal returns, is driven away by scandal, and then reappears only to evict the servants, who, away from the Manikin, find the happiness and love denied the cursed house and its owner. A richly atmospheric and literary gothic romp, with settings as realistic and perfectly rendered as Craxton's animals: a novel that splendidly reinforces Scott's reputation as an original and imaginative writer.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-3974-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1995

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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