Wide-eyed mid–19th-century humanistic optimism in a breezy, blissfully readable translation by Stump (French/Univ. of...

READ REVIEW

THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND

The first of two new unabridged translations of what Roland Barthes called Verne’s “almost perfect” novel, currently only available in its 19th-century incarnation. In 1865, a year before he invented the “scientific romance,” Verne’s castaway novel, Uncle Robinson, was rejected by his publisher. Ten years later, Verne, now renowned for Around the World in Eighty Days and From the Earth to the Moon, vastly expanded his castaway story as The Mysterious Island—a tale based on real-life Alexander Selkirk (1676–1721), a sailor who joined the South Sea buccaneers and, at his own request, was put ashore on an island in the Pacific off the coast of Chile (in 1704), where he survived alone until 1709, when he was discovered and brought back to Britain. Verne’s own story is a rousing summation of his optimistic expectation that, through the thoughtful uses of technology and the aid of good fellowship and a friendly dog, the human race could survive just about anything. When five Americans—an engineer, a journalist, a sailor, a freed African slave, a young boy and his faithful dog—find themselves stranded in Richmond, Virginia, during the closing days of the Civil War, they steal a balloon and drift into a storm that blows them thousands of miles westward, until the balloon falls apart near a volcanic island in the South Pacific. Though it takes a hundred pages for the group to reunite, another hundred and thirty to guess that they may not be alone, a few hundred more for them to be attacked by pirates and find the attack mysteriously repulsed (by the author’s most famous and enigmatic fictional villain, now tragically dying), Verne’s plot moves along breathlessly through scenes of the castaways surmounting danger through technology (e.g., a watch crystal focusing the sun’s rays to make fire) while having chatty lectures about flora and fauna.

Wide-eyed mid–19th-century humanistic optimism in a breezy, blissfully readable translation by Stump (French/Univ. of Nebraska). (75 b&w reproductions of original illustrations)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2002

ISBN: 0-679-64236-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Modern Library

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

more