Edifying but not electrifying.



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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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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