The narrative lacks thrust, and the flight could be less controlled, but it shows promise of better work to come, once the...


Air Force flyer wrestles with her demons during Desert Storm.

In carefully cadenced prose, debut novelist Ponders diffidently explores the fallout from only-child Annie Shaw’s relationship with the distant, cold father she reveres. He was a pilot and Air Force veteran, and Annie wanted to emulate him even as a child, when she preferred eavesdropping on war stories to passing hors d’oeuvres at her parents’ cocktail parties. However, when her father’s infidelities seemingly lead to her mother’s death, she and ruggedly handsome Dad become transients, living with a succession of his mistresses and wives. The section expounding Annie’s childhood is more engrossing than those detailing Annie’s experiences as an Air Force Academy cadet and an anomalous female pilot deployed to Saudi Arabia after the invasion of Kuwait. The military scenes suffer from an excess of downtime and acronyms. A mostly extraneous middle section follows the careers of Annie’s male comrades as they switch war zones, from Kosovo to Kandahar. There are some gripping moments, including a mission during which Annie inadvertently exposes her crew to a missile attack. The affectless narration jumps around in time and shifts from first- to third-person point of view, but the protagonist’s secret self is always held close to her flight vest. A detached reportorial voice, emphasizing physical detail more than psychological depth, glosses over Annie’s feelings of guilt after her mother dies in a house fire. Similarly undocumented are the course of her estrangement from her father and the reasons she married thinly sketched Dexter. When the missile mishap results in a medal rather than court martial thanks to the intervention of ex-lover Jago, Annie’s feelings about the deception are obscured because the facts are laid out so dispassionately.

The narrative lacks thrust, and the flight could be less controlled, but it shows promise of better work to come, once the author stops withholding.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-078608-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?