Lush and lurid, as are its sultry settings: an intricate brocade conceals its blemishes, seducing the reader with silken...

WHO SLASHED CELANIRE’S THROAT?

Human sacrifice, never a good thing, wreaks spectacular havoc in the author’s latest Caribbean gothic.

In the 1880s, an infant is found on Guadeloupe with its throat slit, not an isolated phenomenon on this isle where the demons cultivated for personal and political gain prefer babies as sacrificial victims. Kindly but debauched Dr. Jean Pinceau (aping his hero, Dr. Frankenstein) reattaches Celanire’s head and adopts her. After goading her adoptive mother fatally into the jaws of a mysterious black dog, Celanire attempts to seduce Pinceau, who is wrongfully convicted of child rape and exiled to the penal colony of French Guiana. And that’s just her first ten years. Entrusted to nuns, Celanire is educated in France and travels as a missionary to colonial Ivory Coast. A beauty whose swan neck is never without scarf, necklace, or ribbon, Celanire captivates both sexes as she sets about revamping a home for illegitimate children, turning it into an elite academy by day, salon/bordello by night. Anyone who resists her charisma, like the hapless homosexual Hakim, is doomed, as is anyone she finds inconvenient. On the surface, Celanire is an envoy of civilization who cultivates elaborate gardens and rails against female circumcision and oppression of women. Wrested back from sacrifice, she’s the double-agent of the unpropitiated demon-gods. Her acts serve twin mandates: to avenge herself on everyone connected to the sacrifice, and to discover her true parentage. The action spans four tropical climes: Africa, Guiana, Guadeloupe (where the former foundling returns in grim triumph as the governor’s wife), and Peru, where an exorcism of sorts occurs. The body count mounts as do Celanire’s shape-shifting forms—large mastiffs, a stallion, a raptor bird, and—a waitress? Condé (Tales From the Heart, 2001,etc) sets herself a fearsome challenge: an implacable trickster can hardly engage our sympathy, despite her cultivated veneer.

Lush and lurid, as are its sultry settings: an intricate brocade conceals its blemishes, seducing the reader with silken irony.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2004

ISBN: 0-7434-8260-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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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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