A brave but heavy-handed work about the plight of women in a patriarchal society.

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THE FIRST WIFE

A man’s five wives band together, against all odds, to demand what’s rightfully theirs.

Rami has been married to her husband, Tony, for 20 years. They live in southern Mozambique, and they have five children. Tony’s been a good husband to Rami: as chief of police, he’s a successful, professional man, and he’s provided well for his family. But lately he’s been absent—conspicuously so—and Rami sets out to discover his whereabouts. She finds that she isn’t the only woman in his life. Tony, it turns out, has been stringing along not just one or two, but four other women, each of them with a trail of children. Rami is bewildered, devastated, and furious in turn. She confronts the other women, but they won’t be scared off: like Rami, they depend on Tony for their livelihoods. Rami tries a few different strategies. To learn to hold on to her husband, she takes lessons in love; she also visits a dealer in fortunes and then the wife of a seer. Then Rami shifts tactics. Instead of squabbling, she and the other wives agree to band together. They establish a conjugal rota, according to which Tony will spend a week with each wife, in prescribed order. They force Tony to grant each one of them legitimacy, which brings with it various rights, security, and comfort. Rami encourages each of the women to establish her own small business so they won’t be so dependent on Tony. They seem to be flourishing. But nothing in their world is really stable or fair. As Rami thinks: “To have only one love in life? Baloney! Only women, forever stupid, swallow that story. Men love every day. Every time the sun comes up, off they go in search of new passions, new emotions, while we wait forever more for a love that’s gone old and feeble. All men are polygamous.” This novel by Chiziane, the first published Mozambiquan female novelist, is daring, biting in its critique. It describes the plight of women caught between Mozambique’s traditional culture and its colonized societies. In that sense, it’s an effective work. But it begins to bow beneath the weight of its own responsibility. Chiziane aims for an emotional pitch that can’t be sustained for the entire length of the novel. Her metaphors are heavy, relentless, following one upon the other. She might have done with a lighter touch.

A brave but heavy-handed work about the plight of women in a patriarchal society.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 9780914671480

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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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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