An impressive tale, written in a sure-handed style, that vividly exposes the heavy personal and cultural costs of racism.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

READ REVIEW

The Unspeakable

A debut novel details a betrayal in apartheid South Africa.

Anderson (Vanishing Ground: Poems, 2000) tells the tale of Adrian Erasmus, a man raised by his widower father, a drunken, racist Boer who eventually blows his brains out in front of his son due to an impossible debt. Adrian is shooting a video starring professor Digby Bamford. Although his reputation has faded, Bamford caused a sensation in the 1960s when he found a fossilized skull called Wonderboy, suggesting humans originated in South Africa. Also at the Wonderboy site are Bamford’s girlfriend, Vicky, once Adrian’s lover, and Adrian’s co-worker, a black South African known as Bucs. Complications develop as the foursome camps in the remote area. Adrian wants to rekindle his affair with Vicky, but she has her eye on Bucs; Adrian fantasizes about killing both men. When the booze-swilling Bamford proposes a porn shoot starring Vicky, Bucs, and Adrian, Bucs leaves and Adrian blows up the crew’s vehicle, creating a huge fire. Later Adrian finds Bamford dying from a gunshot wound that he claims is self-inflicted, but Adrian discovers that Vicky shot him. After witnessing South African soldiers tearing down a black family’s hut, he runs into a racist soldier who tells Adrian he and his comrades have captured and badly beaten the innocent Bucs while hunting for “terros”—terrorists. After Adrian lies, claiming Bucs killed Bamford and set the fire, the black man faces execution. This is a tautly written, finely crafted novel that plumbs the depths of racism, not only as it occurred in South Africa under apartheid, but by extension as it continues in much of the world today. Anderson has a golden ear for realistic dialogue, and his descriptive powers are strong (Bamford looks “like some flabby failure in a Mr. Universe contest”). Readers should not only see the characters, places, and situations the author describes, but smell, hear, and sometimes even feel them as well. Beyond painting a bleak portrait of the dissolute, decadent, and cruel nature of apartheid South Africa, “this bloody fascist country,” the book builds to a moral climax when Adrian has the chance to free his colleague. The only characters who come across as decent are the blacks, and they are relentlessly ground down by the whites.

An impressive tale, written in a sure-handed style, that vividly exposes the heavy personal and cultural costs of racism.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936196-38-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: C & R Press

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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

Did you like this book?

more