With humor and pithy human insights, Taylor continues pleasing readers with the escapades of Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly.

AN IRISH DOCTOR IN PEACE AND AT WAR

Taylor (Fingal O’Reilly, Irish Doctor, 2013, etc.) reminds fans that even in the peaceable kingdom of County Antrim and County Down, good men shed blood when Hitler infected Europe.

Taylor moves back and forth between 1960s Northern Ireland and the wartime travails of 1939-40, with minor emergencies and mysterious illnesses at home and terrifying adventures at sea. In 1966, Dr. Fingal O’Reilly is married to his first love, Kitty, but the book’s passionate romance comes as Fingal recalls his wartime courtship of first wife Deirdre, a nurse midwife in training. Taylor’s gift is dialect (there’s a glossary)—“a shmall little minute to toast and butter the bramback”—and sentences end with “so” or “bye.” When the war starts, Fingal is assigned to the battleship HMS Warspite as medical officer. Covering Royal Navy battles at Westfjord in Norway and later in the Mediterranean off Italy, Taylor’s descriptive powers are as mighty as Warspite’s 15-inch naval rifles—“[h]e had to grab onto a handrail...the noise that surrounded him like an impenetrable wall and by its force seemed to be crushing his chest.” At Warspite’s new home port of Alexandria, Taylor offers a précis on the last days of the gin-and-tonic empire as world war washed over ancient Egypt. There, lonely Fingal is tempted with a love affair. As Warspite sails, characters step aboard, most compelling the medical detachment’s stalwart leader, Surgeon Cmdr. Wilcoxson, and Tom Laverty, ship’s navigator and father of Fingal’s future partner, each of whom support Fingal, wide-eyed country doctor, who shakily steps into operating theaters where emergency amputations and bloody trepanning are de rigueur. But Fingal's true domain is Ireland's green-drenched landscape, “coarse marram grass hillocks that lay between the glen and the shingly shore," with familiar Ballybucklebo characters like young partner Barry, medical student Jenny, and his newly married housekeeper, Kinky.

With humor and pithy human insights, Taylor continues pleasing readers with the escapades of Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3836-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

THE UNSEEN

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

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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