by Mallory M. O'Connor ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 5, 2018
A well-paced historical soap opera.
O’Connor (American River: Tributaries, 2017, etc.) returns with the second volume of her trilogy about three California families (the McPhalans, the Moraleses, and the Ashidas) whose members’ lives have repeatedly intersected over the past century.
This novel picks up in 1963, just after the tragic death of Julian McPhalan, which marked the end of the series opener. Kate McPhalan is now married to Carl Fitzgerald (née Carlos Estevan Morales), a trained symphony conductor in San Francisco. Owen McPhalan, the family patriarch and owner of the Mockingbird Valley Ranch, is a representative in the state legislature in Sacramento. Marian, his ex-wife and the mother of the three McPhalan children, is an aspiring artist in Boston. In Cleveland, the youngest McPhalan, Alexandria, nicknamed “Alex,” is studying concert piano under the tutorship of Hungarian musical genius Stefan Molnar. After Alex leaves Boston, Marian moves to New York City, where she finds a warm reception for her paintings. Meanwhile, Tommy Ashida is spending a semester in Japan, having been chosen to participate in an international studies program in architecture at the University of Kyoto. Tommy’s father once worked at Owen’s ranch, and Tommy and Kate had once been a couple. In Kyoto, Tommy meets Emiko Namura, and, for the first time since his relationship with Kate, falls in love again. O’Connor follows her characters from January 1963 to May 1970, constantly moving the action from one location to another—California, Ohio, New York, Japan, and Mexico. Many of the central characters suffer from some sort of artistic angst, and the narrative is fully loaded with fragile egos, overwrought emotions, and selfish preoccupations. In this atmosphere, Kate’s general stability is welcome relief, even as she wrestles with a few demons of her own. The complex relationships and family crises effectively parallel the turbulence of the era that provides the backdrop for addictive melodrama. A fight to establish a farm workers union, as well as references to the Vietnam War and the 1970 Kent State shootings, establish an underlying layer of tragedy. Still, the deaths of multiple characters will come as a surprise to readers.A well-paced historical soap opera.
Pub Date: March 5, 2018
Page Count: 450
Publisher: Archway Publishing
Review Posted Online: April 13, 2018
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.
Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.
Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.
Pub Date: April 7, 2020
Page Count: 272
Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020
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by Amor Towles ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 6, 2016
A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2016
New York Times Bestseller
Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.
Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).
Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016
Page Count: 480
Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016
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