Arthurian-revival yarn from the authors of High Priest (1989), with dismally unpromising ingredients. Arthur is reincarnated as a ten-year-old Chicago boy; his protector, Galahad, is drunk ex-FBI man Hal Woczniak. The Grail, a magic cup-shaped meteorite that heals at a touch, confers immortality on whoever holds it. For reasons beyond conjecture, this holder turns out to be Saladin (yes, he of Crusades fame). Merlin returns to life, never mind how, having spent centuries as a ghost in vanished Camelot, the latter located, for reasons equally baffling, in Dorset. And most of the action occurs in a present-day England, about which the authors clearly know next to nothing. Millennia ago, escaped slave boy Saladin acquired the magic cup by murdering its kindly Neanderthal keeper, and thus became immortal. Occasionally he loses the cup, so his life is dedicated to keeping it secret. In post-Roman times, Saladin wandered to England, where he became involved in Arthur's experiments with social democracy and accidentally healed the old wizard Merlin of fatal heart failure. Later, when Arthur lay dying of wounds, Saladin not only refused to heal him with the cup but attempted to finish the king off, so Merlin took by force of magic, saved Arthur, then offered him the cup; Arthur refused the cup's awesome power. Later, Saladin recovered the cup and went on to further exploits, while Arthur died and Merlin faded away. Now, in the present, Arthur and Galahad are reunited with Merlin. Saladin, having served time in a mental institution for a series of grotesque murders, breaks out and goes forth to reclaim his cup, which, seemingly by chance, Arthur has acquired along with title to the ruins of Camelot. Given the ingredients, it's no surprise that the doings- -``plot'' is too definite a term—make no sense at all. Neither do the characters offer much appeal. In sum: unmitigated drivel—but it will probably find an audience.

Pub Date: July 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-312-85227-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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