Displaying a sure command of character as well as a poetic mastery of language, Hall is a talent to be reckoned with.



Artists and the art world dominate this novel of love and landscape.

Hall (Daughters of the North, 2008, etc.) deftly balances multiple narratives across a generation and a geographical area bridging England and Italy. Signor Giorgio, a reclusive Italian painter, dies in the early 1960s, his last years dominated by still lifes of bottles. After his death, Annette Tambroni, a blind girl overly protected by her mother, begins to tend his grave. More than 30 years later, Peter Caldicutt, a talented English painter, finds himself pinned down by boulders at the bottom of a gorge in Cumbria. When younger, Peter had written to Giorgio to express admiration for his work and to pose some questions that caused Giorgio to reflect on his preoccupation with the seeming anachronism of the still life. Now, trapped and desperate, Peter reviews his life while waiting for rescue. Two of the objects of his reminiscence are his twin children. Danny has recently been killed in a motorbike accident; Susan, who had served almost as a mirror of her brother’s moods and emotions, takes his death particularly hard and deals with it largely through erotic escape. She neglects her long-term relationship with Nathan and begins a scorching affair with Tom, her fellow curator on an art exhibit in London. Peter also recalls his early days as an art student in the ’60s, his marriage to the freewheeling Raymie and the threesome they formed with Peter’s even more freewheeling artistic mentor, Ivan Dyas. Although Annette makes appearances throughout this many-voiced novel, the primary figures are domineering Peter, in his daughter’s eyes a “colossal man…who smoked dope and rock-climbed with the Earl’s sons, who walked around either stark bollock-naked or dressed for the theatre,” and sensitive, anguished Susan, trying desperately to find herself after the loss of her alter ego.

Displaying a sure command of character as well as a poetic mastery of language, Hall is a talent to be reckoned with.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-143045-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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