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A BLUE TALE

AND OTHER STORIES

These three stories, recently published in book form in France, are the only remaining fiction previously untranslated into English from the great French writer (1903-87) best known for her brilliant historical novels and for being the only woman thus far inducted into the AcadÇmie Franáaise. All three pieces were written between 1927 and 1930, when Yourcenar was in her 20s. An illuminating account of their composition and evaluation of their quality appear in a helpful foreword contributed by Yourcenar's biographer, Josyane Savigneau. The stories themselves, meanwhile, are a mixed lot. ``A Blue Tale'' surmounts its central stylistic gimmicka setting whose objects are virtually all shades and varieties of the title colorby bathing in sensuous description the fablelike story of a group of merchants who travel to a Middle Eastern island kingdom to seek a ``cave of sapphires'' and are accordingly punished for their greed. This reads like something out of the Arabian Nights and bears strong similarities to the contents of one of Yourcenar's best later books, her Oriental Tales. ``The First Evening'' is of interest chiefly because it was originally conceived by the author's father and mentor, Michel de Crayencour, and later revised and completed by Yourcenar. It's an analytical look at the wedding trip of a sophisticated older man and his virginal second wife disturbed by the husband's memories of the mistress he has abandoned. Here and there, Yourcenar's wry aphoristic voice is heard (``No doubt she thought him handsome. This lack of taste annoyed him''). ``The Evil Spell'' analyzes the relations among Italian villagers who appeal to a ``healer'' to cure a dying woman believed to have been cursed by her romantic rival. Neither the story's leftist political subtext nor its contrived specificity about peasant superstition rescues it from condescension and triviality. Apprentice work, and very uneven, but a welcome addition nevertheless to the distinctive oeuvre of an important modern writer.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-226-96530-9

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1995

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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