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SILENCE OF THE CHAGOS

A fierce and evocative telling of the strangled arc of a peace-loving people.

A young man’s journey of self-discovery illuminates the heart-wrenching history of the Chagos Archipelago, a little-known part of the world.

Coming-of-age in Mauritius, Désiré has always felt like an outsider. After all, he traces his ancestry back to Diego Garcia, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean. But why does his birth certificate claim he was born in Seychelles? And why is his pet name also the name of a boat? The answers lie in the history of Diego Garcia, a tranquil island in the Chagos Archipelago that found itself in the crosshairs of the Cold War. The island, which was part of the British Empire for decades, eventually became part of Mauritius after that island nation won independence. But in some convoluted international maneuvering, the United States requested that Diego Garcia be handed over, uninhabited, for use as a strategic military base. The result: a forced evacuation of thousands of citizens in just an hour in 1968; natives were eventually displaced to Seychelles or Mauritius. Désiré and his mother Raymonde’s story is set against this tragic backdrop. A pregnant Raymonde is forced to evacuate but gives birth while at sea. The infant Désiré is hastily given papers at Seychelles before being packed along to Mauritius. Patel, a Mauritian journalist, uses her cast of characters to narrate a keenly observed story, translated from French, about displacement. “Memory is a hook that sinks into your skin. The harder you pull, the more it tears your flesh, the deeper it sinks. There is no way to get it out without ripping your skin apart,” one of the characters points out. If at times the story reads like a thinly veiled history lesson and the nonlinear narrative feels gimmicky, it nevertheless serves an important function: to inform readers about the unseen collateral damage of geopolitical games of Risk. The bullies on the playground dictate the terms since they know the weaker players have no currency they can truly leverage.

A fierce and evocative telling of the strangled arc of a peace-loving people.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63206-234-5

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Restless Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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