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ATTILA'S TREASURE

In Rhinegold (1994), Grundy offered a life of Sigifrith (Wagner's Siegfried) combining anthropology and magical fantasy. Here, he recounts the early life of Hagan, who appeared in the previous book as the slayer of Sigifrith. Dour and warlike, and a staunch upholder of the old gods, young Hagan is sent as a ``foster son'' (i.e., hostage) to the camp of Attila the Hun. Hagan adapts well to the life of the camp, bonding with a fellow hostage, Waldhari, a Christianized Frank, and at the same time taking instruction from the Hun's shaman. The prowess of the two young men in battle pleases Attila, but the arrival of Hildegund, a young Gothic Christian woman whom Attila intends to wed, disrupts everything. Because of her religion and her civilized ways, she is horrified by Attila- -especially when he brings her three severed heads of Christians slain in battle as tokens of his esteem. Grundy builds up the Huns' society and religion in convincing detail throughout, as Waldhari and Hildegund eventually fall afoul of the jealous Attila. Their escape into a winter storm, carrying off his treasure, precipitates the final crisis, in which Hagan, one of the last upholders of Gothic ways against the inroads of Christianity, is forced to choose between two loyalties. The heavy irony of his final choice is that it's taken in defense of two Christians who have broken (under great provocation, to be fair) all the laws and customs of the old ways he defends. As in his previous novel, Grundy is often more taken with piling up anthropological detail than with forwarding plot, but he has a fine sense for battle scenes, and his portrayal of the pagan vision of a living universe is both convincing and emotionally effective. Strong anthropological fantasy, with well-drawn characters and great insight into the clash of cultures at a crucial point in history.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-553-37774-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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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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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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