This ultimately rather mysterious book, with its attenuated plot and restrained humor, is like a person who speaks so softly...

LAURA & EMMA

Fifteen years in the life of a woman who is constitutionally out of step with her privileged New York family.

We meet Laura in 1980, waking up from a nightmare, thinking it would be nice if she had a husband to discuss it with. The only other time she misses having a partner is if something breaks around the apartment after 9 p.m., too late to call the super. Laura is an odd duck in many ways. She has little interest in clothes, “but what people assumed was her absentminded ignorance of fashion” is actually ecological conscientiousness. Since everything she owns will one day end up in a landfill, she avoids acquisition as much as possible. In 1979, the fashion-on-the-street photographer Bill Cunningham took a picture of her in a Laura Ashley skirt, white turtleneck, and Frye boots; she is still talking about it, and wearing the same outfit, in 1995. Though she rejects her family’s lifestyle in some respects, she does take their money and holds a job at the museum now located in her great-grandfather’s mansion. Wedding coordination is a position for which she is quite unsuited, but because of the special allowances the library makes due to her connections, she will never leave. In this very quiet life of hers, one thunderbolt strikes. In her single experience of sexual intercourse, which occurs under conditions which are both very sad and very funny, she gets pregnant. Reproduction is certainly not part of her plan to save the planet, but on the day of her scheduled abortion, a sparrow gets into her room and changes her mind. So all-by-herself Laura becomes Laura and Emma, per the title of Greathead’s debut. Although having a child should by all rights open the windows of Laura’s life, it doesn’t. Her daughter, on the other hand, turns out to be a totally different sort of person.

This ultimately rather mysterious book, with its attenuated plot and restrained humor, is like a person who speaks so softly that you end up paying very close attention.

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5660-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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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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