A gimmick in search of a plot, and far duller than it should have been, given the material.

THE THIEF OF TIME

Boyne (Crippen, 2006, etc.) offers a historical fantasy about a 256-year-old man.

Matthieu Zéla is a fortunate man. He has discovered the secret of perpetual middle age, as Oscar Levant said of Zsa Zsa Gabor. Though never a father himself, he has lived through nine generations of nephews, each of whom, after fathering a son, has died in his 20s; Matthieu has been given their unused years. It’s a silly idea, but it does allow Boyne to dip into history at will. Matthieu was born in Paris in 1743. After his stepfather murdered his mother and was executed, 15-year-old Matthieu left for England with his five-year-old half-brother Tomas. On the cross-Channel boat, he met 19-year-old Dominique, also fleeing France; the three became a family. Boyne moves back and forth among many time periods. There is Matthieu’s coming-of-age year, 1760, and there is his present, 1999. In between, Boyne inserts several pieces of history, ranging from the 1793 Paris Terror to the Hollywood blacklist of the McCarthy period. The constant is narrator Matthieu, who makes money and connections with improbable ease, whether working for the pope in Rome as an arts administrator in 1847 or falling into a role as TV producer in 1940s Hollywood. Unfortunately, Boyne has no feeling for the past, and Matthieu’s voice is bland, so that even the guillotining of his first nephew counts for little; like the many other violent incidents, it is told with a practiced glibness. Boyne does a little better with Matthieu’s origins (Dominique’s death provides a rare moment of genuine excitement) and the present, in which Matthieu is trying to save his drug-addicted nephew, the star of a BBC soap, from yet another early grave. It’s a tough assignment, but Matthieu pulls it off; once said nephew is set for a long life, Matthieu can settle into old age.

A gimmick in search of a plot, and far duller than it should have been, given the material.

Pub Date: March 6, 2007

ISBN: 0-312-35480-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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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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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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