A sometimes-engaging story that suffers from a disjointed presentation.


Cea’s debut novel, an allegorical adaptation of the legend of Faust, tells a story about the difficult choices that face people in the modern world.

The book starts with a preface by the author and a prologue from the narrator’s point of view, explaining the philosophical underpinnings of the story to come. Cea notes that there will be many allusions to classic literature and film, which he says will enrich the narrative. His unnamed narrator then begins the tale in earnest, looking back on his own mistakes in life and pondering the context for his downfall. The first half of the book is the most engaging, showing the narrator’s upbringing in New York City by a strong mother and a father who was kind to his family and friends but unrelentingly brutal to those he saw as cruel. The narrator was a bright kid, but not terribly interested in what school had to offer—until a teacher showed him how to question his surroundings in a more intellectual manner. There are some beautiful moments here, especially when the narrator tries to understand his father’s dual nature. The second half of the book is more contrived, as the narrator settles into the Faust plotline. He’s talked into buying a horse and gets involved in a gambling scheme that’s backed by organized crime. This interrupts a developing storyline from the first half, in which the narrator gets married and is forced to adapt to the fact of his father’s death. But although the author introduces some colorful characters in the latter half of the book, the narrator’s family barely appears in it. The author’s motivations for joining the scheme are attributed to his need to get ahead for his family’s sake, but readers never get to see that family life in order to put that decision in context. He winds up in prison, and after long passages of debating different schools of philosophical thought, he ends up leading a different life than the one he envisioned. The novel’s frequent allusions to other works, which the author footnotes and explains, wind up being more of a distraction than a useful addition.

A sometimes-engaging story that suffers from a disjointed presentation.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-57709-7

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2016

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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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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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