A boisterous retread of the Bard’s classic, minus the elegant writing and psychological complexity.


A righteous daughter reclaims her father’s kingdom in this rendition of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Cordelia, 16-year-old daughter of Britain’s King Lear, opens this debut novel by vigorously applying her knee to the groin of Mundred, bastard son of the earl of Gloucester and would-be rapist, the first of her many attacks on toxic masculinity. She’s the innocent eye of a hurricane of ambition and treachery. Her elder sisters, Regan and Goneril, hatch rival plans to maneuver their respective husbands, the dukes of Cornwall and Albany, into seizing the throne. Both women also take the loathsome Mundred as a lover. Mundred orchestrates his own rise to power by murdering Gloucester, Cornwall, and Albany and raising a revolt against Lear, who placates him by naming Cordelia heir to the throne and promising him her hand. Alarmed at Mundred’s machinations, Cordelia vents increasingly strident indignation at Lear’s dithering refusal to punish him, and their relationship gets really nasty. (Father: “You’re a whore. And so was your mother.” Daughter: “I should hope my mother was a whore. I should hope she enjoyed making you a cuckold.”) Lear duly disinherits Cordelia and abdicates his crown to Regan and Goneril, which precipitates more bloodshed and war—and here the tale veers from dynastic melodrama into populist crusade. Cordelia, accompanied by Mundred’s sexy but passive half brother, Garred, goes to live among the peasantry and launches a class struggle—“The lives and happiness of working people depend upon their being secure in the ownership of the property they’ve accumulated through their labor,” she declaims—against aristocratic privilege. Fritsch’s ambitious version of the Lear saga has a raucous feminist energy to it, especially as the brash Cordelia develops a zest for slitting the throats of male miscreants. Unfortunately, the characters feel like cardboard—Regan and Goneril are cartoonishly bitchy; Mundred is a transparent psychopath; and Lear is simply a dunce for not heeding everyone’s advice to hang the monstrous villain—and the dialogue is not exactly poetic (“I wish to tell every other person in this kingdom what they may and may not do,” chortles Goneril). Readers who love the original may want to stick with it.

A boisterous retread of the Bard’s classic, minus the elegant writing and psychological complexity.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9978829-4-0

Page Count: 195

Publisher: Asymmetric Worlds

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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