A little-known historical event is brought to life in this stylized, creative retelling.



A debut novel infused with magic realism in 19th-century Sicily.

Petito-Egielski’s novel uses the history of the small Sicilian village of Bronte as a basis for a tale about unlikely heroes who break free from oppression. The narrator, known as Muntagna, has been living as a hermit far from his home village, where everyone considers him a coward. He’s haunted by the ghost of his cousin Alfiu, who led a peasant revolt against the British landowners but was killed for his bravery. Muntagna earned his reputation as a coward for not taking part in the revolt. Alfiu’s ghost wants Muntagna to look after his daughter, Gratia, whom he knows to be in danger. Muntagna returns to Bronte in the form of a dog and spends his days spying on Gratia through windows and doorways. Alfiu’s widow has gone crazy with grief, but she’s sure her daughter can redeem everything by murdering the wealthy landowners in the castle. Gratia’s life is a difficult one; thankfully, though, Muntagna’s wife, Vincenza, keeps an eye on her. Shunned by the village for her wild red hair, which villagers fear marks her as a daughter of the devil, Gratia becomes friends with another outcast, a shepherd boy. When a deadly illness sweeps through Bronte, the healing arts that Vincenza has taught her lead to Gratia being called into service at the castle. Now within range of those whom her mother expects her to murder, Gratia finds herself questioning her duty. Touches of magic and fantasy color this historical tale, with Gratia able to summon magical powers to help her in times of need. Muntagna tells the story in a colloquial, sometimes-poetic style with passages such as “ ’Neath the sheets that August night, I was safe from peasant madness. ’Neath the sheets that night, I was a coward through and through.” The narration and dialogue are filled with Italian words and phrases, some translated, some not—a style that further slows the book. Patient readers will be rewarded with a satisfying conclusion.

A little-known historical event is brought to life in this stylized, creative retelling.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989471107

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Amuninni Press

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2014

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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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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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