A pleasing modern-day addition to the venerable lineage of the English social novel, easily the equal of Trollope or...

THE CLOSED CIRCLE

Benjamin Trotter, his friends and family return, even more at sea in a transformed Britain than they were 20 years ago at the close of The Rotters’ Club (2002).

The sharp eye for the socioeconomic landscape that distinguished Coe’s previous outing is also quickly evident here, as Claire Newman describes London in December 1999: “There are vast numbers of people who don’t work in this city anymore, in the sense of making things or selling things. All that seems to be considered rather old-fashioned.” Claire has returned after years living in Italy, but her school chum Benjamin is just as bemused back in their hometown, Birmingham, where he’s senior partner in an accounting firm, still working on the novel that was supposed to make his name decades ago and still mooning over Cicely Boyd, though he’s been married to long-suffering Emily for years. Benjamin may have retained the socialist values of their parents, but he’s just as self-absorbed as younger brother Paul, an eager-beaver junior member of Tony Blair’s business-friendly New Labor government. Both men are fascinated by a young woman named Malvina, who becomes Paul’s “media advisor” and later his lover before a heavily foreshadowed revelation about her parentage provides the story’s climax. There are several other flamboyant plot twists involving members of the once-close, now slightly ill-at-ease circle of friends that also includes journalists Doug Anderton (by this time married to an aristocrat) and Philip Chase (Claire’s ex). But the real point here is Coe’s acid, bitingly funny portrait of early-21st century Britain, where the cradle-to-grave welfare state has been abandoned as “a now comically outdated democratic ideal” and cab drivers knowledgably discuss varieties of wine (“Australian Shiraz, you know, something fruity and mellow”). His characters never come quite as vividly to life, though they’re generally decent, intelligent, well-meaning people with believable personalities and problems.

A pleasing modern-day addition to the venerable lineage of the English social novel, easily the equal of Trollope or Galsworthy, though without the imaginative fire of Dickens.

Pub Date: May 31, 2005

ISBN: 0-375-41415-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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