MALEFICE

In the year 1655, during the English civil war, a parish woman is hanged for witchcraft, also known as ``malefice''; and in a series of guilty, grim soliloquies, townspeople and a local gentry reveal their own rather brutal sins and crimes. Alice Slade, ``ugly, with a wicked tongue and a poisonous glare,'' was mocked in Whitchurch St. Leonard as a child, daughter of ne'er-do-wells, later becoming the wife of a weak and violent drunk and the mother of two daughters, one a bulbous idiot named Margaret. At age 50, having become a beekeeper, Alice is convicted by the local judge—a newly elevated supporter of Cromwell, who's winning the civil war—of having cast mutilating or deadly spells on a number of her townspeople, including the parish vicar's wife; and during the last night before her hanging, the vicar—formerly a royalist, now hoping to curry favor with Cromwellians—tortures her to extract a confession. He gets more than he bargains for, learning, for example, that he was the most outstanding tormentor of his virtuous wife Sarah, whom he had always suspected of infidelity; and he catches glimpses of Satan, who looks remarkably like himself. Meanwhile, in a series of ``literary'' monologues that echo what Alice is presumably telling the vicar about his neighbors, Alice's daughters, acquaintances, and accusers take turns remembering their lives with her, inadvertently exposing the adulteries, betrayals, thefts, drunken brawls, lusts, pretenses, and episodes of turncoatery they have visited on each other. In the end, with Alice dead, fat daughter Margaret illicitly buries her in the parish churchyard—and, having inherited the bees, appears to have inherited the gift of malefice as well. A somewhat dour story recommended for the staunch of heart and stomach.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-42403-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

more