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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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.


Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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