DEATH IN THE ANDES

An impressive panoramic portrayal of his native country is created with masterly economy in this intriguing political detective story by the celebrated Peruvian author (In Praise of the Stepmother, 1990; the autobiography A Fish in the Water, 1994, etc.). The story details the investigation performed in a remote Andean territory by two government Civil Guard officers: weary, cynical Corporal Lituma (who appeared in Vargas Llosa's Who Killed Palomino Molero?, 1987) and his young adjutant, Tomas Carreo. Three men have mysteriously disappeared and are presumed murdered. Suspicion falls initially on the Marxist Shining Path guerrillas, whose terrorist activities range from disrupting a star-crossed highway project to stoning innocent tourists to death. But Lituma also suspects a putative local "witch" and her Falstaffian husband (pointedly named Dionisio), rumored to practice both cannibalism and human sacrifice. The novel rockets energetically from one scene and set of characters to another, powered by Vargas Llosa's distinctive structural device: A story told by one character to another simultaneously presented through authorial omniscience in the present-tense. The guerrillas are observed from outside, and they prove all the more menacing and mysterious for that. Several subplots linger hauntingly in the memory, most notably those involving a woman environmentalist whose devotion to a variously funded reforestation plan brands her as an "intellectual who betrays the people," and a gentle retarded man who watches with horror as a herd of the vicueas he protectively tends is, for ostensibly political reasons, slaughtered. The vigorous, fractious narrative is skillfully unified by a painstakingly rendered contrast between its two major characters: Lituma's profane testiness is oddly engaging, as is his moonstruck partner's romantic fixation on a thug's mistress who has more than one surprise in store for her hopeful young lover. A terrific novel: dramatic and varied, rich in incident, characterization, and atmosphere, and disturbingly forthright in its political and human implications. One of Vargas Llosa's best books in years.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-14001-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995

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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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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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