A fascinating exploration of the changing face of social customs and gender politics.

HER HUSBAND'S CROWN

Tradition and social progress collide in this multigenerational tale of Ugandan domestic life.

Set in Uganda in the 1940s and ’50s, Namuddu’s debut novel interweaves the stories of several Ugandan women as they struggle to find and maintain their places in a rapidly changing society. Nansamba leaves her family to enter into a successful, happy marriage with Ggalabuzi, but things become strained when, despite the influence of the Catholic Church, her husband decides to make Nansamba’s younger sister Mucwa his second wife and Nansamba’s “co-wife.” While the two women reconcile and even strategize to make sure they and their children benefit financially from the arrangement, they remain resentful toward their parents, who agreed to Mucwa’s marriage without her consent. Meanwhile, 20-something schoolteacher Biiti, fearful of impending spinsterhood, agrees to a disastrous marriage with an older man she has never met; ultimately, she’s compelled to take her young child and return to her parents’ home, eventually making a career for herself as a nightclub manager. When the spurned matchmaker Ssolo, who engineered both Nansamba’s marriage and Mucwa’s nonconsensual betrothal to Ggalabuzi, seeks revenge upon him by arranging the seduction of one of Biiti’s relations, many women’s lives become knotted together in a struggle for dominance and security. Only when the younger women caught in the drama assert their independence do the dynamics of power begin to seismically shift. Namuddu’s intriguing depiction of midcentury Ugandan society is one of contrasts. The increasing influence of orthodox Christianity contends with firmly entrenched pagan beliefs, such as those that revolve around the birth and consecration of the many sets of twins born in the novel, while women sold into marriages and rendered legally powerless must scramble and connive, often to each other’s detriment. Convoluted plotlines involving unlikely couplings, mysterious parentage and sudden revelations help further the sense of chaos and claustrophobia Namuddu tries to create, but such developments become tiresome as they grow increasingly melodramatic.

A fascinating exploration of the changing face of social customs and gender politics.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Partridge Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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