Edifying but not electrifying.

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MARCONI AND HIS MUSES

A NOVEL BASED ON THE LIFE OF GUGLIELMO MARCONI

Winfrey’s debut novel reimagines the life of Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian radio-communications pioneer.

It would seem that Marconi was born to be an inventor. Fascinated by experiments throughout his young life, his most notable and destructive work was conducted when he was a child, inspired by his reading of Benjamin Franklin’s work on electricity. He passed an electric current through the family’s dinner plates by coiling wire around them and connecting them to a battery. This resulted in the plates being shattered and his father punishing him severely. On another occasion, he severed the tip of his ring finger when working, but continued with his task, stating that he would get it “stuck back on by and by.” It was this unswerving determination, along with an alarming intellect, that led him to dedicate his research to “wireless telegraphy.” His discoveries changed the world, pioneering a long-distance radio-transmission system upon which contemporary methods of communication were founded. With his success came a rise to fame. The novel examines his move to England and the work conducted in the service of Queen Victoria, his meeting with Thomas Edison, and his receipt of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Marconi’s story is told in a simple, flat, “he did this, he did that” manner with little embellishment. The narrative begs for more dialogue, and the author’s deployment of simile and metaphor is staid: “He had arrived like a gust of energetic wind. Blond, blue-eyed, and dressed in emerald green, he reminded Guglielmo of a leprechaun.” There are, however, a scattering of delightful exceptions: “He shook Marconi’s hand three times, moving it up and down, reminding Marconi of the pump in the backyard of Villa Griffone.” The novel is one of a collection of books titled the Mentoris Project, which champions the work of great Italians and Italian-Americans, but the author doesn’t shy away from detailing Marconi’s unapologetic leanings towards fascism, making for a well-rounded, warts-and-all portrait. Despite its failings, this novel proves to be an educational read that also offers some speculative insight into the private life of the inventor.

Edifying but not electrifying.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947431-05-8

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Barbera Foundation, Inc.

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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