A writer and his women ("his past futures, his future pasts")—and an attempt to discover "what had gone wrong not only with Daniel Martin, but his generation, age, century. . . ." This is Fowles' mammoth, clubfooted new novel, with all the autobiographical indulgences and psycho-philosophical longueurs that such a prospectus almost always guarantees—and more. For alienated 20th-Century Man is here incarnated as famous screenwriter Dan, whom we follow in both first and third person as a transatlantic phone-call prises him out of the L.A. arms of filmstar Jenny and puts him on a 747 to the past: London, Devon, and Oxford, where, 25 years before, young Dan took young lane to bed but married her sister, leaving Jane to an arid, even-keeled life with donnish don Anthony. Now Anthony, dying of cancer, orders Dan to befriend varicose-veined Jane, to help her experience the juicier life she's missed. Dan obeys, finding new hope in old love—but not before he has swept out every cranny worthy of a flashback: childhood as the vicar's motherless son; first lust; blissful, unreal Oxford and early playwright success; Hollywood sell-outs, affairs, divorce, absentee fatherhood. And, in and around the muscle of incident. . . the flab of ponderings, musings, generalizations from glib to fascinating to fatuous—England vs. America, film vs. theater vs. novels, Marxism, Catholicism, the sexual revolution's "age of self." This marbling effect might take hold—if Fowles did not insist On coloring in the design with a marking pen. The third/first person shifts, distracting enough in themselves, are commented on, brooded about: "Neither the first nor the third person that he also was wanted lane in his arms again." When Dan takes lane for a cruise down the Nile with European types for company, the implicit imagery doesn't stay implicit for long: "If the Nile was human history, their ship was a pocket caricature of the human race, or at least the Western part of it." It comes as no surprise that Fowles writes magical scenes, embraceable characters (Dan, caught between "he" and "I," is the least appealing), and (sometimes) musical prose. The surprise is that he has chosen to burden his realest, smallest story with the unlikely job of explaining—and finding hope in—Twentieth-Century Life.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 1977

ISBN: 0316290394

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1977

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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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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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