by Nicola Griffith ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 12, 2013
A book that deserves a place alongside T.H. White, to say nothing of Ellis Peters. Elegantly written—and with room for a...
A historical novel of early medieval England to do T.H. White proud, based on the real life of the “Anglisc” girl who would become Saint Hilda of Whitby.
Of Hilda’s—Hild’s—life not much is known, save that she was an adept administrator and intellectually tough-minded champion of Christianity in the first years of its arrival in Britain. The lacuna affords Griffith (Stay, 2002, etc.) the opportunity to put her well-informed imagination to work while staying true to the historical details, over which she lingers with a born antiquarian’s love for the past. Griffith’s attention to those details is refreshing and welcome, for the Dark-Age time of Hild is a confusing welter of battling Angles, Celts, Picts and even a few holdover Romanized Britons, of contending lords and would-be lords; Griffith’s narrative may be densely woven, but she provides clues and context enough for readers to keep the story and its players straight in their minds. “Straight” is perhaps not the best operative word, though, for Griffith does manage to get in a few scenes in which our saint-to-be finds herself on the verge of doing Very Naughty Things to and with her “bodyman”: “She ached. She felt so alone. She wanted to feel Gwladus respond, rise under her, strong and fierce. Hers.” No wonder those British huts, as Griffith writes early on, were always hot. In all events, Griffith does admirable work in imagining and populating the ancient British world and all its to-us exotic customs, its deep learning, its devotion to magic and prophesy—and Hild is a master thereof, from ferreting out plots against the crown to determining from a taste of mead that secret deals are being cut with the nasty Franks.A book that deserves a place alongside T.H. White, to say nothing of Ellis Peters. Elegantly written—and with room for a sequel.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013
Page Count: 560
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2013
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013
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A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.
Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.
Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.
Pub Date: April 7, 2020
Page Count: 272
Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020
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by Amor Towles ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 6, 2016
A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...
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Best Books Of 2016
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 480
Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016
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