Veteran writer West (Tenement of Clay, 1992; A Stroke of Genius, 1995; etc.) returns, this time focusing on the knife-edge relationship of a Chinese daughter and her father with a Japanese whoremaster. Beginning with the Japanese capture of Nanking in 1937, West examines the delicateand inevitably compromisedrelationship that develops between conquerors and conquered as he tells the story of Scald Ibis; her father, Hong; and Hayashi, the invading colonel who controls their fate. When the Japanese soldiers trash her family's villa, the 16-year-old Scald Ibis is raped by Hayashi and his superior officer. As artist and intellectual, she finds it difficult to reconcile her past with the presentshe'd been taught by her father, an internationally famous scholar and calligrapher now off at war, that ``home life was a life of art.'' But for all her delicacy, Scald Ibis endureseven as Hayashi transforms the villa into a high-class bordello, the ``Tent Of Orange Mist,'' catering to the most depraved and jaded of sexual appetites. While Hayashi, enjoying his new responsibility, imagines receiving prestigious medals for his efforts, Scald Ibis's survival is paradoxically assured: Now that she's in a ``conduct zone devoid of codes...[where] even ethics had become merely decorative,'' she accepts Hayashi's plan to turn her into a geisha. As she adjusts to her new situation, however, Hong appears and uses his linguistic skills to become Hayashi's interpreter. For a few months, the trio exist in a carefully calibrated association, but when Hong finds out what services Scald Ibis must perform, he kills Hayashi, and is, of course, killed in turn. Only Scald Ibis survives, living to sue the Japanese government 55 years later. A terrible tale, vividly told, marred only by West's intrusive intellectual riffs and asides that have the effect of trivializing the unadorned truth.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-684-80031-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1995

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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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Cheerfully engaging.


From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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