An unnerving but highly readable historical novel about a troubled teen.

THE MAN DANCE

Rollins’ (Good-Time Girl, 2019) historical novel tells the story of a troubled, talented English boy’s coming-of-age in the 1960s.

As a small child, George Carveth grows up on the Cornish coast surrounded by family, although some of his relatives disapprove of the ballet class that he attends: “Strange he was the only male child there. Some of the boys in the neighborhood didn’t want George playing football anymore, which was batty….The adults decided this ‘Frenchy dancing’ had gone far enough.” When his father gets an offer of a new job in London, his parents move to the city while 10-year-old George is sent to a posh boarding school. There, the other students make fun of his accent, and a bigoted member of the faculty takes exception to George’s partial Indian ancestry. He’s seemingly befriended by one of his schoolmasters, Mr. Wilburn, but the man quickly reveals his true intentions by asking George to dance naked for him. The teacher’s sexual abuse of the boy coincides with a split in George’s personality: the cautious, everyday George and the secretive “Shadow George,” which he sees as his “bad self." As Shadow George increasingly makes decisions for him, the 14-year-old dances on a lark before his classmates while "lightly clad," and makes aggressive advances toward younger students. One of his uncles, who recognizes George’s talent for singing, dancing, and impressions, encourages his parents to contact a talent scout, so George meets a pair of Americans named Jack and Jill Stuart. With their encouragement—particularly that of Jill, to whom the teenager takes a special fancy—George begins to hone his craft and embark on a career in entertainment. The 15-year-old continues to struggle with his confused sexual feelings as he pines for Jill and as Jack makes sexual overtures. As the boy reaches his later teens and success in the arts appears within reach, Shadow George threatens to cause more trouble. Over the course of this novel, Rollins’ prose is nimble and ornately textured, evoking the landscapes of Cornwall and London with painterly skill. Her characters are drawn even more finely, as each is revealed to be a knotted web of conflicting instincts and beliefs. Her treatment of sexuality—and the predatory advances of adults and older children—is particularly sharp. At one point, George reveals Wilburn’s actions to his older cousin Timmy, who says that he regularly exposes himself to a Norwegian sailor in exchange for a penny. The cousin remarks that there are “Odd ducks in the world…I’ve met a few. No one ever tells you.” Apart from these moments, however, the book has a very traditional feel; indeed, Rollins lays out her story at a leisurely pace that sometimes drags, and the plot’s shape is somewhat easy to predict. Still, Rollins has assembled an array of broken people who are compelling, even as they destroy one another, and she manages to capture a horrific side of humanity.

An unnerving but highly readable historical novel about a troubled teen.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79572-477-7

Page Count: 394

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2019

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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