A diverse range of vivid characters brings human faces to a historical protest march.

STORIES FROM SUFFRAGETTE CITY

A landmark 1915 protest for women’s suffrage is the setting for the dozen short stories in this rousing anthology.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women’s right to vote. These stories by writers known for historical fiction focus on an event five years before, a march in New York City by 25,000 supporters of suffrage, “a three-mile-long argument for women’s rights.” Several of them bring to life real people; among the strongest is Jamie Ford’s “Boundless, We Ride.” Its protagonist is Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, a Chinese-born suffragist who would become the first woman to earn a Ph.D. from Columbia. Ford makes her a fiercely determined figure with a surprising, and touching, inspiration. The only story not set in New York is “American Womanhood” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez; its first-person narrator is Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the Black suffragist and early civil rights leader. At home in Chicago, she recalls a humiliating event at a 1913 march, an example of racism that seems all too current a century later. Some historical characters recur, like the millionaire Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt Belmont. She’s an imposing but remote presence in Katherine J. Chen’s “Siobhán,” which focuses on one of her housemaids; in Fiona Davis’ “The Last Mile,” Alva is a conflicted and more human main character. Other stories are built around fictional characters, many of them immigrants. In Christina Baker Kline’s “The Runaway,” Kira, a homeless 12-year-old from Ireland, sees the march as a gateway to her future and freedom. But for Ani, the Armenian refugee in Chris Bohjalian’s “Just Politics,” the protest triggers her worst memories of the political massacre that took her entire family. One character, irrepressible 7-year-old Grace, appears in “A First Step” and then pops up in many other stories, wearing a “Miss Suffragette City” sash and recording the scene with a Brownie camera.

A diverse range of vivid characters brings human faces to a historical protest march.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-24133-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An intriguing meditation on the meaning of “meant to be.”

MEANT TO BE

Giffin’s latest charts the course of true love between an American aristocrat and a troubled fashionista.

Almost immediately, readers will guess that Giffin’s protagonist, Joseph S. Kingsley III, a media darling since birth, is a re-creation of John F. Kennedy Jr. In addition to Joe’s darkly handsome good looks, there are many other similarities, such as his double failure of the New York bar exam and his stint as a Manhattan assistant district attorney. But Joe’s late father was an astronaut, not the president, and locations associated with the Kennedys, such as Hyannis Port and Martha’s Vineyard, have been moved to the Hamptons and Annapolis. Instead of a sister, Joe has a protective female best friend, Berry Wainwright. Readers may be so obsessed with teasing out fact from fiction, and wondering if the outcome for Joe is going to be as tragic as JFK Jr.’s fatal 1999 flight, that they may be distracted from the engaging story of Joe’s co-protagonist, Cate Cooper, who is—apart from a superficial resemblance to Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy—largely a fictional creation. When Joe and Cate meet-cute on a Hamptons beach where Cate, a model, is posing, both are immediately smitten. However, the paparazzi are determined to milk every ounce of scandal from the social chasm separating them. On the surface, Cate is the product of a middle-class upbringing in Montclair, New Jersey, but her interrupted education and her forced flight from an abusive home have shamed as well as strengthened her. Like her real-life counterpart, Cate rises in the fashion industry and becomes known for her minimalist style. The couple’s courtship drags a bit on the page despite witty banter and steamy encounters. It is the conflict brewing when their pedigrees clash, and, particularly, Cate’s consciousness of the disparity, that grips us. Whether these knockoffs can avoid the fates of the originals is the main source of suspense here.

An intriguing meditation on the meaning of “meant to be.”

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-425-28664-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more