In this casual, colloquial translation, Barcelona between the wars is full of tawdry vitality, much like the novel itself.

PRIVATE LIFE

First published in 1932 and newly translated into English, this is a satirical, multigenerational saga about the intricate relationship between Barcelona’s fading aristocracy and the city’s sordid demimonde.

“Aristocratic cynicism” and “decadence” are the subject matter. Digging deep into the crevices of the highborn Lloberola family while following its moral and financial disintegration, Catalan Sagarra displays none of his American contemporary Hemingway’s romanticism in his depiction of Spanish life. Frederic de Lloberola must be one of the least likable protagonists in fiction. As the novel opens, he's already regretting having had sex again with his former mistress Rosa, whom he dumped years ago to marry his rich wife. A hypocritical prig with little wit, imagination, or capacity to care about anyone, Frederic has already pawned his wife’s jewels and is less concerned with Rosa than with a note he can’t pay back to his wealthy acquaintance Antoni Mates. Fortunately for Frederic, Mates has a very dark sexual secret shared only by Frederic’s charming but amoral younger brother, Guillem, who blackmails the debt away with unexpected repercussions. Jump ahead five years, after the great crash, to the start of Republican rule. While Barcelona aristocracy is politically divided, society has become more heterogeneous. Frederic’s daughter Maria Lluisa works as a secretary. Unfortunately, her experiment in living as an independent woman doesn’t work out the way she—or the sympathetic reader—hopes. Expect murder, revenge, and fallings in and out of love as Sagarra tightens the initially loose connections among his characters. The novel comes most alive when the author digresses from his plot: in his characters' back stories, his ruminations on Spain’s socioeconomics, his cleverly vicious bons mots and descriptions (including men as black truffles among pink party dresses), and in some surprisingly graphic sex. Whether Sagarra is anti-Semitic and homophobic or commenting on those tendencies in his characters is troubling but unclear.

In this casual, colloquial translation, Barcelona between the wars is full of tawdry vitality, much like the novel itself.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-914671-26-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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