THE SICILIAN

Remember, in The Godfather, when Michael Corleone had to hide out in Sicily for a while before coming home to start taking over the Corleone empire? Well, Puzo goes back to that point here, to 1950, with Michael about to leave for America. First, however, on orders from his father, Michael must do his best to arrange for the safe escape to the US of Salvatore Giuliano, the real-life Robin Hood of Sicily. And, while Michael meets the fugitive Giuliano's family and friends, trying to win their trust, flashbacks—the bulk of the novel—fill in the history-based tale of the bandit's career, his run-ins with both the authorities and the local Mafia kingpin, Don Croce. The saga begins in 1943, when nice young "Turi"—shot by corrupt earabinieri for smuggling a piece of black-market cheese—kills in anger, instantly becoming a hunted man. With chum Aspanu Pisciotta, he takes to the hills, vowing to "strike for the cause of justice, to help the poor"—attracting a motley band of allies (a professor as well as a few cutthroats), freeing harmless prisoners from jail, stealing a noblewoman's jewelry, etc. And Turi's fearless doings attract the attention of postwar power-broker Don Croce, who's in need of a "warrior chieftain" to supplement his non-violent spread of Mafia control. But Turi, who yearns "to slay the dragon of the Mafia in Sicily," shrugs off Don Croce's offers of alliance; he even kidnaps a Prince who's under the Don's protection; the Don responds with assassination attempts—all foiled. (One super-assassin switches allegiances, becoming a trusted Turi lieutenant.) Eventually, however, with promises of a governmental pardon from the Mafia-linked Christian Democrats, Turi does agree to an anti-Communist alliance with Don Croce. . . only to be doubly betrayed. (Most painfully, Don Croce arranges for Turi to take the blame for a massacre of peasants.) So now, back in 1950, Turi is fed up, eager to leave for the US and publish his "Testament"—with proof of Mafia/government ties. But, before Michael Corleone can assist his escape, Turi is finally killed by Don Croce-thanks to the betrayal of his secretly envious right-hand man. (And, back in America, Michael will learn a lesson in cynicism—when his father decides to keep the Testament under wraps.) Godfather fans may be disappointed that this isn't a sequel, that Michael's role is so peripheral. And the character of noble, vengeful Turi is more cardboard than the chiaroscuro of Puzo at his best. (Cf. Jay Robert Nash's The Mafia Diaries, p. 881, for another interpretation of the bandit—and his Testament.) But, if relatively thin and tame, this episodic morality-play is still vigorous storytelling in the dark, bitter Puzo manner—with twisting loyalties, impassive vendettas, and corruption at every level, from the town barber to the Cardinal of Palermo.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1984

ISBN: 0345441702

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Linden/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1984

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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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