ANTONIETTA

Maestro Hersey (Fling and Other Stories, 1990, etc.) composes a stately, richly detailed symphony of novel about the creation and fate of a very special Stradivarius violin. In 1699, Antonio Stradivari, severe and superb at 55, glimpses Antonia, a beautiful young widow, as she sways across a piazza in Cremona. A widower who never loved his rapacious first wife, Stradivari is so moved by the sight of Antonia that he bends to his workbench and designs a new violin, one he will name Antonietta. His hand slips once when he hears there may be a snag in his plan to marry Antonia, and even when the marriage contract is signed he leaves the nick in the fretboard as a mark of his great passion. It will become a legendary flaw, and its story will be told (and told wrong) through the centuries. Stradivari knows how especially resonant his Antonietta is, building from the ``trills of something like seduction'' to ``soar on the madness of the wings of love.'' He could never imagine, however, how many hands it will pass through, and how great many hearts its exquisite sound will touchamong them young Mozart, who borrows Antonietta from a concertmaster in Paris. After the concertmaster's death, the violin is stolen by pirates, finally to be recovered and purchased by a brilliant violinist named Baillot. Playing the Stradivari, he becomes an inspiration for the turbulent and original composer Berlioz, who ``burst into tears and went over and kissed the top of Antonietta's case'' when he finishes the last movement of his startling Symphonie fantastique. Antonietta also stirs the complex Russian heart of Stravinsky, in exile in Switzerland. Alas, as of 1990, the sensuous Antonietta has become the property of a tone-deaf, status-obsessed Martha's Vineyard financier. Writing in a multitude of voices and formsletters, narrative, screenplayHersey offers a virtuoso performance.

Pub Date: May 7, 1991

ISBN: 0-679-40194-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1991

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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