An absorbing panorama of small-town life and a study of democracy in miniature, with both the people and their polity facing...

THE LOCALS

The residents of a small town in the Berkshires have their world overturned by a billionaire in their midst.

This is a novel with political motives, so much so that it recalls The Fountainhead, except Dee (A Thousand Pardons, 2013, etc.) is a better writer than Ayn Rand by several orders of magnitude, and his point seems to be virtually the opposite of hers. The drama begins on Sept. 11, 2001, when Mark Firth, visiting New York from Howland, Massachusetts, unhappily learns that his meeting with a lawyer has been cancelled. This attorney is representing the plaintiffs in a class-action suit against a con-artist financial adviser who stole their money—in Firth's case, his entire savings. He’s not the only Howland resident who will be struggling in the coming months. Though relief over his safe return smooths things over for a while, Mark’s wife is far from happy in either her marriage or her job, working as a teacher’s aide at a private school so her daughter can get reduced tuition. His brother, Gerry, is fired from Century 21 for an indiscretion; their sister, Candace, is furious at both of them for not helping out with their decrepit parents, and her day job is not on solid ground either. The town is feeling the pinch as well, but the last thing strapped residents want is another tax hike. When their First Selectman unexpectedly dies, Philip Hadi steps into the breach. The Hadis used to be summer people, but in the wake of 9/11 they moved to the country full time, first installing a set of security cameras. Hadi’s solution to Howland’s troubles begins with cutting government to the bare essentials; according to him, past tax increases were only necessary to feed the bureaucracy itself. If there's a real need for something they can’t afford—why, he’ll just pay for it. What happens to the citizens of Howland after that plays both as political allegory and kaleidoscopic character study.

An absorbing panorama of small-town life and a study of democracy in miniature, with both the people and their polity facing real and particular contemporary pressures.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9322-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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