Does it last? Readers are left guessing to the very end. This is a lively, thoughtful and beautifully written flight of...

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UNDER THE HARROW

Imagine Plato’s Republic as founded by the child of Diderot and Charles Dickens, without the fascism but with plenty of rules: That’s Dingley Dell, a place where life is “perpetually shrouded in impenetrable mystery.”

Dunn plows fruitful land in this follow-up to his altogether more lighthearted but no less inventive Ella Minnow Pea (2001), positing a bookish place where cultural life is governed by old encyclopedias, Victorian novels and guild labor to do William Morris proud. No one knows where the Dell of Dingley, or Dingley Dell—fans of The Pickwick Papers, or of more obscure Monty Python bits, will remember the name—really lies: Some say Campania, others East Asia, though the coal seams and “conspicuous absence of the European Jay” suggest the Appalachians. Dingley Dell isn’t exactly paradise, but it’ll do, and its inhabitants are content to live in its shelter, speaking a language that is a little hobbity around the edges and remaining only dimly aware, via the “suppositive postulations,” that a larger world exists out there but is not to be welcomed in or sought out. It’s not exactly M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, but the fact remains that Dingley Dell exists for an odd reason, and that certain Outlanders harbor ill designs on it. When those designs are revealed, it’s up to the Dinglians to go to war for their own survival, having learned about guerrilla warfare from who knows where. Set logic aside; Dunn crafts a pleasing, smart entertainment that slyly comments on and draws from a whole swath of fantasy and dystopian standards, from Fahrenheit 451 to the assembled works of Tolkien. In writing of his lost tribe, his “little people from an orographically anomalous valley,” he invents a believable world, one that, wicked beings that we Outlanders are, would not seem likely to last.

Does it last? Readers are left guessing to the very end. This is a lively, thoughtful and beautifully written flight of fancy.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59692-369-0

Page Count: 350

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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