Malik is a very fully realized character, and Fury positively vibrates with intellectual energy (it’s also frequently quite...


Rushdie’s eighth novel, which was commissioned for a recent literary festival held in The Netherlands, is an intensely personal and surpassingly odd performance that bears only incidental resemblance to his recent successes (The Ground Beneath Her Feet, 1999, etc.).

Protagonist Malik Solanka is a 50ish “retired historian of ideas” who’s living in contemporary Manhattan, having left his American (second) wife and young son in London. Malik is wealthy, thanks to profiting obscenely from the commercial success of the “Little Brain” doll, a product spin-off from a popular TV series (also Malik’s creation) in which “Great Minds” dolls engaged historical wise men in fictional dialogues. If that sounds like a stretch, wait till you get a load of such thematically burdened secondary characters as Malik’s feisty mistress Mila Milo (an activist intellectual out to save the world), his secretive sloe-eyed new love Neela Mahendra, and his friend Jack Rhinehart, a dusky former war correspondent who emulates his obvious model Hemingway in more ways than one. The story’s ostensible premise is Malik’s wary détente with the furies (including the classical personified ones, an uncaught serial killer of young women, and the resentful energies of indigent societies) that he sees all around him. But it’s really a framework on which to hang fusillades of commentary on such topical ephemera as the film Gladiator, the newsworthy doings of Elian Gonzalez, Monica Lewinsky, Slobodan Milosevic, Tiger Woods, and others; “George W. Gush’s boredom and Al Bore’s gush,” and anything else that catches Malik’s jaundiced eye. It all reads like a slightly more exotic Saul Bellow novel (there are explicit echoes of both Herzog and Mr. Sammler’s Planet), with perhaps a soupçon of Philip Roth’s angry comedies of waning sexual impulses waxing eloquent.

Malik is a very fully realized character, and Fury positively vibrates with intellectual energy (it’s also frequently quite funny). But it’s still more tirade than novel: Rushdie’s weakest book since his (justly) forgotten first novel (Grimus, 1976).

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2001

ISBN: 0-679-46333-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller


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?


The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet