by Nicola Griffith ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 19, 2022
A fresh, often lovely, not entirely gratifying take on Arthurian legend.
What if Percival, one of the Knights of the Round Table, was queer?
As a young girl, the heroine of this novella lives alone with her mother, isolated from people but familiar with every plant and beast in the valley that is her home. Sometimes her mother calls her a gift. Other days, her mother says her daughter is payment for the abuse she endured. After a chance encounter gives her a taste of battle and a glimpse of the outside world, the girl decides to make her way to the court of Arturus. Before she sets out, she asks her mother for a true name, and her mother calls her Bêr-hyddur, “spear enduring”—Peretur. Disguised as a young man, Peretur protects villages from bandits, defeats rebel knights, seduces a barmaid, and brings the Grail to her king. Griffith mines the matter of Britain and Celtic mythology while, at the same time, turning tropes upside down and subverting expectations. Arturus, for example, is a principled ruler but also a man in thrall to his otherworldly sword. Nimuë—who becomes Peretur’s lover and ally—imprisons Myrddyn (elsewhere known as Merlin), not to steal his magic but to stop him from controlling hers. Turning the knight who finds the Grail into a young woman is obviously an innovation, but Griffith also transforms the very nature of the Grail quest. Peretur knows exactly where the Grail is as soon as she understands what the Grail is. And Griffith is participating in a trend toward rediscovering diversity in the pre-modern world in a way that feels entirely organic. Peretur’s journey to prove herself worthy of joining Arturus’ companions moves along briskly without feeling rushed. Her Grail quest is her final test, but it feels like the beginning of a new narrative that ends before it begins. Readers interested in the fate of Arturus’ kingdom will be wholly disappointed. Readers invested in Peretur and Nimuë will get the equivalent of a happily-ever-after that feels more like an abrupt dismissal than a satisfying ending.A fresh, often lovely, not entirely gratifying take on Arthurian legend.
Pub Date: April 19, 2022
Page Count: 192
Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022
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by Barbara Kingsolver ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 18, 2022
An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2022
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Winner
Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.
It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022
Page Count: 560
Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022
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by Nathan Hill ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 26, 2023
A warmhearted satire that chronicles our “perfectly, stupidly, dreadfully elegant” accommodations to life.
A bittersweet novel of love gained, lost, and regained over the course of decades.
“They stare across the alley, into dark apartments, and they don’t know it, but they’re staring at each other.” It’s not an outtake from Hitchcock’s Rear Window but instead the wistful longings of two lonely people. Jack Baker, newly arrived in Chicago from Kansas in the 1990s, is a talented photographer who bristles when practical-minded people ask him what his work is about—to say nothing of why he works with Polaroids, which, a hipster friend reminds him, “are mass-produced, instant, cheap, impermanent.” Yes, and that’s the point, for though Jack comes from the windblown prairie, he’s pretty avant-garde. Elizabeth Augustine is a quadruple major at DePaul, “five majors if you count theater, which I have no talent for but enjoy nonetheless,” and exactly the woman Jack hoped he would meet. Life proceeds: That arty hipster becomes a real estate mogul who plants them in a development very much outside their price range until Elizabeth pulls down the big bucks from the psychological research firm that gives Hill’s latest its simple title. “Basically they were a watchdog group, a subcontractor for the FDA and FTC, sniffing out bullshit,” Hill writes, but Elizabeth, scraping by while Jack pulls down pennies as an adjunct professor, discovers that there’s hay to be made creating bullshit rather than exposing it—making airplane seats narrower, for instance, and then selling once normal-sized seats at a premium. Hill romps through our soufflélike culture with a nice sendup of academic literature and broad jabs at memes ranging from organic food (“one-hundred-percent bioavailable”) to progressive parenting, open marriage, and cult behavior (“Elizabeth knew...that the thing that most effectively strengthened and deepened delusions was being surrounded by people who shared the same delusions”) while delivering a story that suggests that while love may not conquer all, it makes a good start.A warmhearted satire that chronicles our “perfectly, stupidly, dreadfully elegant” accommodations to life.
Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023
Page Count: 624
Review Posted Online: June 21, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023
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