GUINEVERE

THE LEGEND IN AUTUMN

In this last of Woolley's Arthurian trilogy, Queen Guinevere witnesses the crumbling of the kingdom and knightly brotherhood at Camelot, loses husband and lover, and, though committed to the Mother Goddess and the Old Ways, lives out her days in a Christian convent. Again, as in Child of the Northern Spring 1987) and Queen of the Summer Stars (1990), the old legends are bleached free of that ancient tingly magic, and the dialogue is entertainingly anachronistic (Guinevere on the Holy Grail quest: ``Frankly, I think it's a dreadful idea''). Still, the author has corralled most of the Arthurain heroes—from the Green Knight to the string of G's (Gawain, Gareth, Gahert, Geraint, and Galahad). Narrated by Guinevere (who reports events with the efficient dispatch of a Mary Kay section manager), the story begins in her prison cell; she's scheduled for execution in the morning. By 400 pages later, just why she's in the pokey is revealed and the past few years reviewed: her marriage to Arthur (a union of affection and mutual respect); her platonic affair with Lancelot, the Queen's Champion and the greatest knight, ending in a bittersweet consummation; the ``spiritual'' quest for the Grail, embraced most fervently by Galahad, Lancelot's son by Elaine-not-so-pure; the disastrous relationship between Arthur and Modred, his son by his half-sister; the plots of Morgan, another sister and priestess Lady of the Lake; the clash of Christian and pagan religions. There is much travel and travail, tournaments and tilts of will, deaths and panting messengers. Arthurian tales in a chatty modern idiom, with old buddies like ``Lance'' and ``Tris'' and ``Guin'' doing their still- marvelous stuff.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-70831-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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