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PROMISED VALLEY CONSPIRACY

Another well-done excursion into Jean Auel territory.

The multipart saga set in a lush prehistoric valley continues.

The third volume in Fritsch’s Promised Valley series (Promised Valley War, 2012) explores the ongoing conflict between the valley people, who are prosperous farmers occupying all the richest Promised Valley lands, and the hill people, who inhabit the sparser uplands and live bitterly, believing that their gods promised the valley and its comforts to them. Since the valley people have a similar belief about themselves, a state of dangerous friction exists between the two groups. Savage warfare and desperate diplomacy marked the well-orchestrated events of the first two books, and tensions continue to boil to the surface in this volume. Blue Sky, a stalwart valley person (and one of the most memorable characters of the entire series) says at one point, “Fighting in a war is the most disgusting thing a person can do. People in their right mind can’t do it.” Nevertheless, plenty of such fighting threatens the fragile peace in this latest volume, in which the enemies trade numerous hostages in an effort by both sides to stop the cycle of distrust and bloodshed. And although there’s war, there’s also tolerance: As with the previous two books, the author presents us with a prehistoric society that places no stigma on being gay—key male characters have not only wives or intended wives but male lovers as well. The author attempts to make the various plotlines accessible to new readers, but the books lose some dramatic heft if not read in order. Still, the narrative impact is vividly realized in any case: These books continue to be an intelligent and involving look at the personal sacrifices of making war and keeping peace.

Another well-done excursion into Jean Auel territory.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615739250

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Asymmetric Worlds

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2013

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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