Addictive, elegiac, and pristinely paced.

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THE GREAT CONCERT OF THE NIGHT

A diary-keeping museum curator builds a relic of words for his dead lover.

Having spent a solitary New Year’s Eve alone watching a film in which his former lover Imogen starred, David—a middle-aged man who’s “happier living in the past”—begins a diary into which he pours a lyrical disorder of fragments: He describes Imogen’s often risqué, avant-garde films; he meditates on the Catholic veneration of saints and relics; he describes the financially ailing Sanderson-Perceval Museum, where the items on display—“the velvet mushrooms, the glass jellyfish,” the “excavated” remains of a stillborn child—“belonged together only because they had been collected”; he writes about Imogen’s long decline through illness to death; he charts the progress of a homeless man working to put his life back on track; and, collected alongside one another in David’s diary, these disparate writings slowly refract back to Imogen, adhering into something of a reliquary of words. Novels made of nonlinear fragments—see Jenny Offill’s Department of Speculation, Peter Rock’s The Night Swimmers, or David Markson’s Wittgenstein's Mistress—tend to self-consciously declare their form as their philosophy; Buckley’s (The River Is the River, 2015, etc.) latest novel is no exception. Through David, Buckley meditates on the unbridgeable gap between thoughts and expressions: “Words do not preserve the person; they are not held in a colorless medium of language.” Later the topic is the unbridgeable gap between memory and life: “When I think of Imogen, what presents itself to my mind is not a story….A story, a life, is something one makes; it is not what one remembers.” Readers who dislike artsy books told in nonlinear fragments will undoubtedly dislike this one; but for the rest of us, David’s diary is actually something of a triumph. It contains moments of astonishing lyricism: A museum’s objects “are like stars, small pieces of light from distances that cannot be bridged.” It contains moments of dark humor: Imogen (an actress, remember) “did not feel that she was an insecure person. On the contrary, she said, she was absolutely secure in the knowledge that there was no secure entity behind the name Imogen Gough.” And, ultimately, Buckley’s novel is both very entertaining and very sad—a book of high artifice that feels true.

Addictive, elegiac, and pristinely paced.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68137-395-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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