by Lilian Gafni ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 25, 2011
A gripping plot and the author’s research get buried in backstory, exposition and subplots.
A young woman learns a secret about her past while Columbus plots to explore the world in this historical novel set during the Spanish Inquisition.
Isabella, a young noblewoman in Castile, is soon to marry her love when she is kidnapped and thrust into the world of persecuted Jews. She learns that her parents weren’t really the Catholic nobles who raised her. Her captors hide her in the harem of a Moorish king. Meanwhile, a young rebel called Miguel Costa fights for religious freedom, and Christopher Columbus plots to convince Queen Isabella, who is focused on ridding her domain of Moors, to support his worldly explorations. Gafni’s understanding of the time period seems paramount, and her plot is solid. Isabella’s movement between different cultures allows readers to explore what it was like to be a Catholic, Jew or Moor during one of history’s darkest periods. However, Gafni’s omniscient third-person narration overreaches, so that instead of focusing on a few touchstone characters, Gafni delves into backstories, emotions and motivations of countless characters. As a result, the novel feels unfocused, and many sections could have been edited out without affecting the novel. Scenes of negotiation between Columbus and Queen Isabella, though they may be important to the story in the grand scheme, only distract from the more interesting trajectory of Isabella’s awakening to the deadly bigotry in her world. The author frequently editorializes about characters’ actions or motivations instead of letting words or actions speak for themselves. For example, telling a reader that “Isabella stood in the middle of her bedchamber feeling lost and powerless. It was an overwhelming feeling” does little to evoke emotion or interest. Furthermore, the author is prone to revealing her hand too easily. The reader knows long before Isabella who her real parents are, so the reader feels no surprise when it is finally revealed to Isabella herself.A gripping plot and the author’s research get buried in backstory, exposition and subplots.
Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011
Page Count: 396
Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
National Book Award Finalist
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by J.D. Salinger ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 15, 1951
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
Page Count: -
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951
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