An affecting but sometimes tentative portrait of mental illness, with some memorable moments.

NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT

Resurrected debut novel by the author best known for Stoner (1965).

When we meet Arthur Maxley, he is, unpromisingly, in the middle of a dream that finds him, like some Nick Carraway, on the fringes of a party that turns very ugly; the partygoers surround him, beat him, screaming: “and then the sea of blood darkened and he swam in utter blackness and knew no more.” The dream, as we will see, is meaningful. Arthur has left school and now does little more than drink, read, and think too much, though he faces a challenge: The father from whom he has been long estranged, for reasons that become increasingly clear as this short novel unwinds, is in town to see him. (“Father, he thought. It is a word.”) There are times at which Arthur seems a slightly older but no more mature Holden Caulfield, as when he provocatively—so he seems to think—orders a single egg and Tabasco sauce at a diner, failing to impress the server at all. His father tries but fails to break through Arthur’s desperately built barriers: When Arthur sputters that “everything is bad now, it’s evil. You, me, the whole world, everything,” Hollis Maxley answers weakly, “You’ve got to make yourself believe you aren’t alone, even if you are.” When Arthur does find company in the form of a pretty young woman named Claire, matters do not improve; the violence with which the story begins frames it at the end. Published in 1948 but written while Williams was fighting in Asia during World War II, the short novel ranks alongside Conrad Aiken’s ghostly “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” as a study in madness; one wonders why Williams distanced himself from it, though the narrative power of later novels like Stoner and especially Butcher’s Crossing is only hinted at here.

An affecting but sometimes tentative portrait of mental illness, with some memorable moments.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68137-307-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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