Condé’s flair for sensual detail—Cape Town streetscapes, heady black coffee—and her wry cynicism offset flabby plotting.


Caribbean painter reels from the aftermath of her lover’s murder in Cape Town, South Africa, in this retread of Condé’s usual themes: racial alienation and women’s struggles for autonomy (Who Slashed Celanire’s Throat?, 2004, etc.).

Rosélie has been reduced to telling fortunes and giving therapeutic massages after her white partner, English professor Stephen, whose proposals of marriage she’s ducked for 20 years, is killed, supposedly in a robbery, outside a convenience store where he’d gone to get cigarettes at midnight. The homicide detective on the case doesn’t buy it, but Rosélie’s too preoccupied with ruminating about her past to provide many clues. First, there is the estrangement from her Guadeloupean parents, genteel Creole Rose and rakish mulatto Elie. Traveling to Paris, Rosélie meets reggae star Salama Salama, who takes her to N’Dossou, Africa, then abandons her for a more advantageous marriage. After dabbling in prostitution, Rosélie encounters Yeats scholar Stephen in a N’Dossou bar, and the two are off to New York City, where Rosélie has an affair with Ariel, who runs a progressive school in the Bronx. Since Stephen wants to experience Cape Town after apartheid, they decamp again, and Rosélie tries to concentrate on her painting. Resentful of the hateful stares her relationship with Stephen elicits, Rosélie closets herself in her studio, admitting only her maid and friend, Dido. Only after Stephen’s death does she suspect his young male protégés, and she embarks on an investigation of her own. Suspense is beside the point, as is characterization of the ever-faithful-in-his-fashion Stephen, whose “secret” is telegraphed from the beginning. This is Rosélie’s story as she internalizes centuries of racial and sexual enslavement and, like other Condé heroines before her, decides that her salvation lies in shedding all impediments, internal and external, to self-expression.

Condé’s flair for sensual detail—Cape Town streetscapes, heady black coffee—and her wry cynicism offset flabby plotting.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2007

ISBN: 0-7432-7128-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

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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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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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