A bit heavy-handed at times but affecting even so.

THE LOST SOULS’ REUNION

An ornate and moving debut about a young Irish woman’s return to her ancestral home, where she attempts to make peace with her family’s troubled history.

To paraphrase Frank McCourt, there’s no bad marriage like a bad Irish marriage—as Noreen Moriarity learned to her chagrin. A fisherman’s daughter from the tiny village of Scarna, Noreen was a shy and awkward girl who married the taciturn farmer Joseph Moriarity mainly because his farm overlooked the sea. Joseph turned out to be a bitter, vindictive lout who never touched his wife unless he was dead drunk and rarely spoke a sober word to her that wasn’t a command. Their only child, Carmel, was even more withdrawn than Noreen—so much so that she acquired a reputation in the village for being “slow.” Eventually she was taken advantage of by one of the local boys, became pregnant in due course, and fled to London to have the baby. There, after a miscarriage, Carmel worked several years as a housemaid for a society prostitute before joining the profession herself. A second pregnancy resulted in the birth of daughter Sive, who was largely brought up by Myrna, an elderly prostitute who looked after the girl while Carmel worked. Some light entered Carmel’s life by the arrival of Noreen, who came to London to look after her daughter and granddaughter after Joseph finally died. But when Noreen died a few years later, Carmel found herself at loose ends. Sive, by now a young woman, decides that best would be to move back to her mother’s old home in Scarna, so she, Carmel, and Myrna all move to Ireland together. There, in the house that held such misery for Carmel and her mother before her, the three try to find a way of putting the past behind them.

A bit heavy-handed at times but affecting even so.

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-31383-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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A LITTLE LIFE

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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