Sure to ignite controversy among Jamesians.

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EMILY HUDSON

London-born author Jones’ novel explores the troubled relationship of an American expatriate novelist and his cousin, a charming orphan infected with tuberculosis.

A fictional character based on Minny Temple, impoverished cousin of Henry James and model for many of his female protagonists, Emily Hudson is orphaned at 16 when her family succumbs to consumption. Forced back on the tender mercies of her uncle, straitlaced Boston theologian William Cornford, she’s packed off to boarding school, but soon expelled, in 1861, for being too outspoken. Emily rejoins the Cornfords, who openly despise her, except for cousin William, a sickly, scholarly young man already making literary waves in Boston. After Emily scuttles her marriage prospects by rejecting dashing and wealthy Captain Lindsay, a Union officer, her uncle disowns her, but William asks her to accompany him to London, where, with his financial backing, she will be free to pursue her ambition to study painting. In London, William distances himself from Emily, except for weekly dinners at which he doles out her stipend. An aristocratic acquaintance, Caroline Trelawney, helps Emily negotiate a young lady’s entrée into London society—in some ways freer, in others more oppressive toward women than Boston’s. Narrowly escaping the clutches of attractive roué Lord Firle, Emily eventually exhausts William’s patience with her utter heedlessness. (Apparently, he’s unable to discard the puritanical social mores he aspired to escape in Europe.) Not only does Emily get Caroline to pose in deshabille, she runs out in a storm, triggering a tubercular attack, and embarrasses William by dressing down an anti-American dinner guest. Fleeing to Rome, Emily finally achieves autonomy as a woman and an artist. This partially epistolary novel (Emily corresponds with her school friend Augusta, Caroline and William’s dour but deep sister Mary, among others) renders Emily and her mostly harmless foibles believable, but William remains a cipher.

Sure to ignite controversy among Jamesians.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-670-02180-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...

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A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.

Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02619-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

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THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK

One of Kentucky’s last living “Blue People” works as a traveling librarian in 1930s Appalachia.

Cussy Mary Carter is a 19-year-old from Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She was born with a rare genetic condition, and her skin has always been tinged an allover deep blue. Cussy lives with her widowed father, a coal miner who relentlessly attempts to marry her off. Unfortunately, with blue skin and questionable genetics, Cussy is a tough sell. Cussy would rather keep her job as a pack-horse librarian than keep house for a husband anyway. As part of the new governmental program aimed at bringing reading material to isolated rural Kentuckians, Cussy rides a mule over treacherous terrain, delivering books and periodicals to people of limited means. Cussy’s patrons refer to her as “Bluet” or “Book Woman,” and she delights in bringing them books as well as messages, medicine, and advice. When a local pastor takes a nefarious interest in Cussy, claiming that God has sent him to rid society of her “blue demons,” efforts to defend herself leave Cussy at risk of arrest, or worse. The local doctor agrees to protect Cussy in exchange for her submission to medical testing. As Doc finds answers about Cussy’s condition, she begins to re-examine what it means to be a Blue and what life after a cure might look like. Although the novel gets off to a slow start, once Cussy begins traveling to the city for medical testing, the stakes get higher, as does the suspense of the story. Cussy's first-person narrative voice is engaging, laced with a thick Kentucky accent and colloquialisms of Depression-era Appalachia. Through the bigotry and discrimination Cussy suffers as a result of her skin color, the author artfully depicts the insidious behavior that can result when a society’s members feel threatened by things they don't understand. With a focus on the personal joy and broadened horizons that can result from access to reading material, this well-researched tale serves as a solid history lesson on 1930s Kentucky.

A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7152-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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