A memorable portrait of a people at war—a war that has long demanded recounting from an Ethiopian point of view.



An action-filled historical novel by Ethiopian American writer Mengiste (Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, 2010).

The Italians who invaded Ethiopia in 1935 under the orders of the man whom the conquered people insist on calling, in quiet resistance, Mussoloni came aching to avenge a loss they had suffered 40 years earlier. They might have remembered how fiercely the Ethiopians fought. Certainly the protagonist of Mengiste’s story, a young woman named Hirut, does. In a brief prologue, we find her returning to the capital, where she has not been for decades, in 1974, in order to find an audience with the emperor, Haile Selassie, who is just about to be overthrown. She has a mysterious box, inside of which, Mengiste memorably writes, “are the many dead that insist on resurrection.” The box comes from the war nearly 40 years earlier, and it is an artifact full of meaning. Hirut was nothing if not resourceful back then: A servant in a wealthy household, she becomes a field nurse, but as the war deepens, she takes up arms and becomes a fighter herself, “the brave guard of the Shadow King”—the Shadow King being a villager who bore a reasonable enough resemblance to the emperor, who has gone into hiding, to be dressed like him, taught his mannerisms, and sent out in public in order to rally the dispirited Ethiopian people. "There are oaths that hold this world together,” Mengiste writes, “promises that cannot be left undone or unfulfilled.” Such is the oath that the emperor broke by fleeing the fight. Mengiste is a master of characterization, and her characters reveal just who they are by their actions; always of interest to watch is the Italian colonel Carlo Fucelli, who is determined to win glory for himself, and a soldato named Ettore Navarra, who has learned Amharic and wants nothing more than to live a quiet life, preferably with Hirut by his side. Hirut herself is well rounded and thoroughly fascinating—and not a person to be crossed.

A memorable portrait of a people at war—a war that has long demanded recounting from an Ethiopian point of view.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-08356-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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

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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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