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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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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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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