by Ru Freeman ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 21, 2009
An earnest, worthy, well-crafted debut.
Human-rights activist Freeman considers selfhood, desire and social status in her first novel.
Purchased as a five-year-old and taken to a wealthy home in Colombo, Latha is raised to be a companion and servant to Thara. The girls are the same age, they live in the same house, but they grow up at opposite ends of Sri Lanka’s rigid class system. Latha gets encouragement from a teacher with communist leanings, and she takes inspiration from the example of Princess Diana, who worked as a nanny before she became royalty. Ultimately, though, she ends up using one of the only forms of power generally available to disenfranchised women: When her employers refuse to give her any of the money she has supposedly earned so that she can buy new shoes, she takes her revenge by seducing the upper-class boy Thara loves. This relationship does not work out quite the way it would on the soap operas that provide Latha with all her knowledge of romance. Meanwhile, Biso travels from the city to the countryside with her three children. She is fleeing her husband, who has murdered her lover. During her journey, she recalls the series of events that brought her to this unfortunate pass. Freeman does an outstanding job of depicting tragically circumscribed lives without turning her characters into cartoonish victims; the childhood scenes between Latha and Thara are especially subtle explorations of class dynamics. Latha is utterly aware of the disparity between her experience and that of her “mistress,” but she is—in the way of adolescents everywhere—too vain to be cowed. Thara’s unselfconscious sense of entitlement gives her relationship with Latha complex depths, and that relationship, in turn, reveals a great deal about the fluid, often paradoxical bond between ruler and ruled. Although Freeman has been an advocate for women and workers, she does not lecture the reader; she lets the story and her characters speak for themselves.An earnest, worthy, well-crafted debut.
Pub Date: July 21, 2009
Page Count: 376
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
National Book Award Finalist
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960
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
Page Count: 323
Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960
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