A message-driven narrative that encourages women to follow their own paths.

UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

A 19th-century patriarchy cannot stop an independent woman and her granddaughter from determining their futures in this debut novel.

Emma Wool, born in 1812—the fifth child and only daughter of a prosperous wool merchant in the village of Greenland—is raised in a severely misogynistic society. Her only future rests in acquiring a suitable husband, for whom she must produce sons. Her father clarifies the gender demarcation when she is age 6 and wants to go outside with her brothers: “You are a girl; you can’t play with boys anymore.” And so Emma is eventually married off to Arthur Waves, a “great warrior,” who becomes a devoted husband—until her first pregnancy results in the birth of twin girls, Alice and Rose. Arthur becomes indifferent and cruel, and the townsfolk turn against her. When she next gives birth to twin sons, Albert and Fred, her social position, if not her warm feelings toward Arthur, is re-established. Arthur is killed in battle, and Emma, the respected widow of a hero, inherits his house and land. This is when she begins to shine. Determined to control her own destiny, she refuses to consider another marriage and devotes her life to raising her four small children and to building the most successful farm in Greenland. Enduring a lifetime of plot twists and tragedies, Emma presses on, ultimately finding joy in the knowledge that her youngest granddaughter, Mary, has the same strength and independence that has propelled her. The sometimes-overwrought novel reads much like an extended fable, with an implicit, scathing indictment of the mistreatment of women. Kallas’ text is linguistically simple, with few descriptions. Greenland does not exist in any specific country (it is just the name of a farming village), creating a sense of dislocation in the reader. Surnames are generic—Wool, Waves, Great—and characters, with the exception of Mary, are two-dimensional, serving more as archetypes. Emma is the backbone of the story, but readers often are not privy to her internal life. The deftly developed Mary is the one they get to know more intimately.

A message-driven narrative that encourages women to follow their own paths.

Pub Date: March 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4908-2825-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

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

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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

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