A tried-and-true heroic tale made fresh with novelty and well-researched details.

OLDE ROBIN HOOD

This epic fantasy retelling of a classic story delivers characters both new and familiar.

Danley’s (A Spirited Manor, 2018, etc.) tale has a mythic bent from the beginning, as the corrupt sheriff of Nottingham murders Robin Hood’s father and burns their family farm to the ground. This episode invokes the idea of the monomyth (and a call to action, especially for the farm boy). From there, the story hits familiar beats but keeps them fresh with information from folktales and oral traditions apparently pre-dating the Robin Hood mythos of modern popular culture. Exiled, Robin escapes to Sherwood Forest, where he meets Little John (fleeing the sheriff’s service). The two become friends and join forces with others, adopting a moral code even as they turn to highway robbery to survive. Interestingly, this code is less contingent on their targets’ wealth than their honesty, as Robin and his companions visit justice on only those who lie when asked if they have money. Rather than resorting to violent acts, they have a strict rule against killing and, in fact, invite some weary travelers to join them in their feasts. Further, Robin renounces Christianity early in the story, seeing clergymen as another aspect of the corrupt state, preying on the downtrodden and coveting riches beyond their needs. This stance—as well as the fact that Robin is neither a nobleman nor a loyalist to an absent king, as in some adaptations—sets Danley’s protagonist apart from the simplicity of the morality plays the character often stars in and introduces pagan religion and a philosophy akin to political anarchism, with its strong opposition to unjust hierarchies. Some readers may find that these elements fail to breathe new life into the tale’s well-trod ground, especially as the plot proceeds. Robin (now beloved by the poor) is pitted against an increasingly irate sheriff, forcing the hero to use only his wits and skills to save his friend and lady love. The bones of the narrative are familiar (Little John says of Robin: “He gets one taste of treating folks with kindness, and it is like a thirst that is never quenched”). But the classic story endures for a reason, and many readers will likely find themselves intrigued and entertained by the novel’s rich prose, intense action, historical and mythological depth, and captivating innovations.

A tried-and-true heroic tale made fresh with novelty and well-researched details.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72384-312-9

Page Count: 313

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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