THE BLUE MOUNTAIN

Reminiscent of a painting by Chagall, this portrait of a pioneer village in Israel is strong on atmosphere, color, myth, and symbols but weak on narrative drive. Baruch, a grandson of the pioneers, is the memorialist of a village built in a mountain valley after the settlers had cleared the original mosquito-infested swamps. In his 30s and the rich owner of a cemetery—resting place to the pioneers as well as to Americans wishing to be buried in Israel—Baruch has recently become the owner of a fine seaside villa, a move that prompts recollections of his own. He recalls how his grandfather and two friends left Russia in the early 1900's and came to establish a socialist community. When the trio met the beautiful and brave Feyga Levin, they founded the famous Feyga Levin Workingman's Circle, whose constitution became a village legend. Though Baruch's grandfather married Feyga, the village never forgave him for his obsession with a woman he'd left behind in Russia. The village is peopled with characters like Pinnes, an inveterate rationalist and teacher; Rilov, the watchman and terrorist who spends his days in the sewer; Uncle Efrayim, who disappears carrying his beloved Charolais bull on his shoulders; and Baruch's grandfather, who becomes as legendary a horticulturist as his beloved Luther Burbank. The animals are equally remarkable: Zeitser the mule, ``who had unshakeable principles and a Platform that bent reality like clover stem''; pelicans that brought mail from Russia; and Bulgov the house-cat, turned into a killer by corrupt human society. Evocative, even lyrical, with the underlying magic realism adding to the mythic stature of the villagers and their accomplishments, but there it ends. A portrait, with footnotes, interesting and well-written—nothing more.

Pub Date: July 3, 1991

ISBN: 0-06-016691-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1991

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

BAREFOOT

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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