THE MARCHMAN

Scotland is barely saved from England's grasping Tudor monarchs as Tranter (The Riven Realm, 1985, etc.), a popular chronicler of Scottish history, tells the engaging story of John Maxwell, the young Warden of the Borderlands who routed the English, advised his monarch, and married for love. Two hundred years after the Scots defeat the English at Bannockburn, Scotland faces another invasion as Henry VIII sends an army north. The Scots, led by their king's favorite, Oliver Sinclair, are humiliatingly defeated in 1542 at Solway Moss, and James V dies shortly thereafter—to be succeeded by his infant daughter Mary, whose French mother will act as regent. This war, as well as the turbulent years that follow, is seen through the eyes of John Maxwell, whose father is the hereditary Warden of the West March. Young John fights with distinction at Solway, where his wise counsel and canny leadership are instantly recognized. He later marries Agnes Herries, the spirited daughter of another Warden, and is soon embroiled in matters of statecraft and war as Scotland struggles to keep its independence. In England, meanwhile, Henry VIII dies, but his successors—son Edward, daughter ``Bloody'' Mary, and Protestant Elizabeth—also covet Scotland. In set pieces that range from spectacular battles and royal festivities to unruly meetings of the Scottish parliament, John deftly leads his bands of dalesmen and moss-troopers to victory; meets with the English to settle border disputes; and is asked by the now adult Mary, Queen of Scots, to talk secretly with the plotting English and convey the message to Queen Elizabeth that she will choose her own husband. A natural survivor, John dies in 1594, ``the longest holder of the office on record.'' Tranter's modest hero, a ``Braveheart'' of his time, offers a detailed, accessible take on life north of the border as armies and ideas clash, and monarchs and courtiers plot.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-340-65994-7

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1997

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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