Amis this time writes about Tod Friendly, a.k.a John Young, a.k.a Odilo Unverdorben—a doctor with a chilling past no one knows about: he was a medical experimenter under Mengele at Auschwitz. No one knows—that is, except his soul, his conscience, which narrates this book: backwards. Literally backwards—not in flashbacks, but everything like a film run in reverse, with construction become destruction, age become youth, horror become innocence. ``You want to know what I do?'' asks the narrator during his stint as trauma doctor. ``All right. Some guy comes in with a bandage around his head. We don't mess about. We'll soon have that off. He's got a hole in his head. So what do we do. We stick a nail in it. Get the nail—a good rusty one—from the trash or whatever. And lead him out to the Waiting Room where he's allowed to linger and holler for a while before we ferry him back to the night. Already we're busy with this baglady we've got, welding sock and shoe plastic on to the soles of her evil feet.'' Dialogue is equally in reverse order, so that you learn the trick of reading up from the page to get the full effect. The problem here is that Amis's cleverness has a glare-y insistence to it that undercuts the moralism it means to reflect. Like London Fields, the book is mostly at home in contemporary jeremiad: about New York, about modern sex, about the homeless, about the horror that doctors so blithely encounter. The Auschwitz material, coming last, also comes least—weakened by the narration's trickiness into seeming inevitable (though Amis puts a psychosexual spin on its roots, Ö la the Reichianism of his mentor Saul Bellow) and inhospitable to the stylistic flair that Amis can impart to even the worst contemporary sins. The chipped impressionism simply and unimpressively reads like the worst facts culled from the great annals of Martin Gilbert and Lucy Dawidowicz. Amis's particularity as a writer—the ethical outrage plus the gorgeously soiled, infinitely plastic style—is still remarkable: but his nimbleness on the stage of the global, historical, Big Picture theater serves him less and less well. The Holocaust couldn't care less about his ingenuity, which turns terribilitÖ into mere tour de force.*justify no*

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-517-58515-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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