Veteran Bailey (Kitty and Virgil, 2000, etc.) navigates with economy and grace between two lives and among many time-frames....

UNCLE RUDOLF

An adoring nephew pays homage to his childhood savior, a star of European operettas, in a masterly, unsentimental evocation of childhood and exile.

A train is taking a small boy and his affectionate but agitated father across snow-covered Romania. The boy’s mother has mysteriously disappeared, and, in Paris, he will be sent on alone to his uncle in London. It’s 1937, Romania is turning fascist, and seven-year-old Andrei Petrescu will now turn into Andrew Peters. Although he will never see his parents again, he’ll get a magnificent welcome from Uncle Rudolf and his devoted entourage. Rudolf Peterson (formerly Rudi Petrescu) is one of Romania’s most famous sons; his thrilling tenor and dashing good looks have made this consummate ladies’ man as rich as Croesus. What matters for little Andrew, though, is his uncle’s outpouring of love, which offsets Andrew’s recurrent nightmares. The boy always comes first for Rudolf, even if it means displacing a hot blond so he can cuddle his nephew to sleep. Still, Andrew will understand, in good time, that his uncle’s cheerful front hides a deep melancholy. Rudolf was once headed for great roles in grand opera, but he succumbed to the easy money of operettas, which he now views with contempt. It will be 11 years before Rudolf tells Andrew his parents’ fate: his half-Jewish mother was raped and murdered by anti-Semites, and his father drowned himself in the Seine. Has Rudolf been overprotective? Not in Andrew’s eyes, for, after his uncle’s early retirement and a brief, joyless marriage of his own, he devotes himself entirely to Rudolf’s business affairs, “the contented prisoner of his melancholy.” His uncle’s death changes nothing, and here Bailey allows Andrew to slip too easily into the unlived life, that staple of English literary fiction.

Veteran Bailey (Kitty and Virgil, 2000, etc.) navigates with economy and grace between two lives and among many time-frames. This British author’s skills—and magic touch for showing love at work—make for a texture unusually rich.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-31834-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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