A compelling story of a woman’s trauma and strength.


A Sworn Virgin


A young woman struggles against the strict social roles of 1910 Albania in Dukes’ debut historical novel.

In the mountain village where Diana Aganis lives with her father, Frenk, and stepmother, Mirlinda, society is governed by an ancient code known as “the Laws of Lekë Dukagjini.” Under the laws, a man’s honor is everything, revenge killings and blood feuds are commonplace, and women are little more than property, like “a sack, made to endure.” Diana has dreamed of escape since she was 5 years old, when a visiting foreign woman’s sketches sparked her interest in art and let her know that feminine existence could be more than drudgery. Luckily, her father encourages her creative endeavors, and they travel to the nearby city of Shkodra to meet a priest who can help her attend art school in Venice. Then Frenk is shot dead in the street, the apparent victim of an honor killing. Diana makes the only choice she can to protect herself and Mirlinda: she becomes a “sworn virgin,” taking a vow of chastity “in order to gain the right to live like a man…inherit property, earn a living, carry a gun, and kill for vengeance”—which she does, after tracking down her father’s killer. Then she falls in love, putting her vow and her life in danger. Overall, Dukes has chosen an engaging setting for this novel, with its mix of medieval and modern elements, and fleshes it out with vivid details, such as the simple meals of goat cheese, cornbread, and yogurt and the elaborate costumes that show clan affiliation and social status with different patterns (“Diana did not recognize the pattern of the braiding, so she was unsure what tribe they came from”). Diana herself is portrayed as plausibly independent-minded without feeling like a feminist anachronism; for example, at one point, she concludes that “Sheep had more freedom [than women], and were less likely to be hit by their owner.”

A compelling story of a woman’s trauma and strength.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5175-4736-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.


From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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