A lurid and ultimately tragic tale revolving around a woman willing to burn her life to the ground.

THE DYING OF THE LIGHT

A blue-blooded Southern belle’s grandiose life is upended by the desire that consumes her.

Goolrick (The Fall of Princes, 2015, etc.) returns to the gothic influences that marked his first two novels, heightened here by an operatic arc that doesn’t quite ring true. A modern-day prologue finds a young reporter sifting through the ashes of Saratoga, an enormous Virginia mansion that burned to the ground in 1941, taking lives with it. The novel itself is the story of Diana Cooke, who in 1919 is the debutante of the year, destined for high society. On Diana’s burdened shoulders lies the responsibility of saving Saratoga, her family’s home, by marrying Capt. Copperton, a vulgar and violent man who fathers Diana's one saving grace, a son named Ashton. After Copperton dies in an accident, Diana retreats to the lonely halls of Saratoga. Her life becomes infinitely more complicated when Ashton returns from college with his handsome roommate, Gibby Cavenaugh, in tow. Ashton commits himself to fixing up Saratoga, bringing in an eccentric librarian, Lucius Walter, and a high-spirited decorator, Rose de Lisle. Gibby, meanwhile, commits himself to fulfilling the pent-up desires of the not-so-modest Diana Cooke Copperton. As they say, drama ensues. There is an accident. A suicide. A fistfight and a near drowning. “Secrets revealed about the true state of things,” writes Goolrick. “An accounting. Cards shown.” Through it all develops the complex, unconventional triangle between Diana and “the single godlike creature her two men had become in her misted eyes.” Goolrick’s writing is always lyrical, and even simple lines like “They tried so hard it broke their hearts,” or “Love, for him, was archeological, a dig for a treasure he would never find,” are bitterly poetic. Yet stripped to its core, the story is soapy, over-the-top, and plunging toward an inevitable finale.

A lurid and ultimately tragic tale revolving around a woman willing to burn her life to the ground.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267822-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 17

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

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

Did you like this book?

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

more