An intense, well-crafted story of how the people closest to us can become our worst enemies.


Collis’ gripping novel (Priscilla, 2011) is a biting tale of betrayal and revenge between two rival sisters.

At 6 years old, Celia Kendall is the prototypical spoiled only child of two indulgent parents, Claudia and Dorian, who won’t refuse any whim of hers. They rise to Celia’s defense when any other authority figure tries to temper her entitled, downright rude attitude. Nannies who set boundaries and rules for Celia are promptly let go, and Claudia and Dorian are blind to how difficult their daughter is. When Claudia shares that she is expecting another child, she is cluelessly taken aback by Celia’s anger and her refusal to accept another person with whom she’ll have to share. Claudia goes so far as to contemplate ending the pregnancy, but ultimately, she hopes that Celia will come around and warm to the role of a big sister. Yet the arrival of Titia triggers a desire in Celia to be rid of her younger sister. She plots Titia’s death in a number of ways but is thwarted each time; her resentment at Titia’s presence festers. Years later, Celia’s string of abuse culminates in the ultimate betrayal—a stolen night, resulting in a child with Titia’s husband, Robert, on the very night he marries Titia. As the tangled web of deceit and terror that Celia spins continues to ensnare everyone around her, she turns her attention to destroying Robert’s financial empire. Celia’s daughter eventually learns the horrifying truth about her mother and is determined to take revenge for the pain and suffering Celia has caused. But at what price? Fast-paced and compelling, this timeless tale of sibling rivalry is absorbing and addictive, as the goal posts continuously shift and Titia struggles to keep up. Celia’s villainous ways prove entertaining in their far-blown details, and Titia is sympathetic yet culpable for being the enabling, dull sister. Dramatic, sexy and suspenseful, this account of a family’s vengeful saga is a worthwhile read.

An intense, well-crafted story of how the people closest to us can become our worst enemies.

Pub Date: May 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4836-3653-5

Page Count: 390

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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