IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES

Brimming with warmth and vitality, this new novel by the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) is a paean to the power of female courage. The butterflies are four smart and lovely Dominican sisters growing up during Trujillo's despotic regime. While her parents try desperately to cling to their imagined island of security in a swelling sea of fear and intimidation, Minerva Mirabal—the sharpest and boldest of the daughters, born with a fierce will to fight injustice—jumps headfirst into the revolutionary tide. Her sisters come upon their courage more gradually, through a passionate, protective love of family or through the sheer impossibility of closing their eyes to the horrors around them. Together, their bravery and determination meld into a seemingly insurmountable force, making Trujillo, for all his power, appear a puny adversary. Alvarez writes beautifully, whether creating the ten-year-old Maria Teresa's charming diary entries or describing Minerva's trip home after her first unsettling confrontation with Trujillo: ``As the road darkened, the beams of our headlights filled with hundreds of blinded moths. Where they hit the windshield, they left blurry marks, until it seemed like I was looking at the world through a curtain of tears.'' If the Mirabal sisters are iron-winged butterflies, their men—father and husbands—often resemble those blinded moths, feeble and fallible. Still, the women view them with kind, forgiving eyes, and though there's no question of which sex is being celebrated here, a sweet and accepting spirit toward frailty, if not human cruelty, prevails. This is not Garc°a M†rquez or Allende territory (no green hair or floating bodies); Alvarez's voice is her own, grounded in realism yet alive with the magic of everyday human beings who summon extraordinary courage and determination to fight for their beliefs. As mesmerizing as the Mirabal sisters themselves. (First printing of 40,000; $40,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-56512-038-8

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1994

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 25


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist


  • New York Times Bestseller

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 25


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist


  • New York Times Bestseller

Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.

Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02619-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

THE UNSEEN

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Close Quickview