Sharply observed and very amusing first novel.


Misadventures in the British rag trade, from a fashion insider.

Katie Castle, production manager for fabulous London designer Penny Moss, has listened patiently to Penny’s grandiose stories of her glory days in the Swinging Sixties, endured her comically eccentric behavior, and even fended off her husband Hugh’s advances since the day Penny hired her. Katie figures her egomaniacal boss is too wrapped up in herself to notice much—and she never thought a brief sexual fling would bring so much trouble. Well, all right, she was engaged to Penny’s son Ludo at the time. They lived together in a townhouse owned by Penny, which Katie redecorated in the spare style she prefers after tossing out most of Ludo’s shabby stuff. He didn’t seem to mind. Earnest, brainy Ludo teaches at a school where even the teachers carry knives—when not fretting over endangered sea eagles. Katie can’t really be blamed for having a pint or two and falling into the brawny arms of Liam, the company van driver, can she? But once Penny finds out, she fires Katie immediately—and Katie finds out soon enough who her friends are. Not Milo, p.r. whiz and out-of-closet queen. He’s too busy lusting after underage youths and currying favor with Penny. Not Cavafy, the elderly Greek whose factory produces Penny’s designs (Liam bragged about the episode to Cavafy’s son Angel one drunken night, and Angel told all). Katie is sent packing, but she can’t go home to Mum and Dad in the aptly named suburb of East Grimstead. At last Jonah, an amateur philosopher and professional thug, takes pity and arranges an introduction to Kamil Ayyub, hapless scion of an immigrant Kurdish clan and owner/manager of Ayyub’s Parisian Fashions, featuring the latest in durable polyester. Katie will have to take a cut in pay but she doesn’t really care, especially since pretentious Penny gets her comeuppance, with a little help from Jonah.

Sharply observed and very amusing first novel.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-76062-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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