A sharp, funny blend of politics and romance that strikes out in a new direction.

A CORNER OF THE WORLD

Modern-day Cuba comes to life in this story of a professor who falls in love with a young writer.

Fernández-Pintado’s novel, capably translated by Cluster, challenges the tropes and stereotypes inherent in much of the literature about Cuba to add a new perspective. It’s narrated by Marian, who at 37 is absorbed in her work as a Spanish literature professor in Havana. She’s happy enough, though mourning the loss of her mother, who raised her alone. Each member of her small group of close friends has a story about travel, “the golden apple of our unending national desire,” and how they’ve survived hardships—without sentimentalizing them—to maintain their roots while so many others have left, returned, left again, in cycles. Marian is on the fence. Her ambivalence is jolted a little after her ex-boyfriend Marcos leaves for London. But she’s really shaken up after her boss at the university asks her to write the introduction to a new book, and she meets the author, Daniel Arco, a 22-year-old “classic erudite vagabond.” Why Marian falls in love so deeply so fast isn’t clear; Daniel’s lines as he woos her are comical at times, verging on satire. Far more interesting are the arguments they have after Daniel proposes they leave Cuba together. He spins tales of a wondrous life in Madrid, and Marian responds that she’d rather not end up “an undocumented dishwasher in a foreign city.” The novel feels a bit patched together as Marian discovers she’d like to be a writer someday. But the humor, anecdotes about the revolution and political commentary make each page worthwhile. Marian contends that the people she knows aren't like those in novels about Cuba by José Saramago or Paul Auster. “Real literature isn’t denouncing Cuba and socialism for three hundred pages seasoned with sex and local color.”

A sharp, funny blend of politics and romance that strikes out in a new direction.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-87286-622-5

Page Count: 136

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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

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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

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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