In his evangelical dotage, Tolstoy disowned not only his masterpieces but the complex world of art as wells the simple soul, the peasant, the pure of heart—these were those to whom he directed his later works. No doubt Thornton Wilder in presenting something so anachronistic, so pre-Freudian and late Victorian as The Eighth Day, a folk-saga purring with eternal verities and nostalgic Americana, had something of Tolstoy's odd nobility in mind. Of course, the sophisticated author of The Bridge of San Luis Rey is also the creator of such homespun fantasies as Our Town and the three short plays that make up The Long Christmas Dinner. But these theatrical pieces are highly stylized hymns to the common world, endowed with classic simplicity and a lyric glow never too far from the shadow of irony. Here, however, the long, rambling panorama of Coaltown, Illinois, during the 1910's, with its quaint dialectic of adversity, struggle, and triumph, its four-square characters and didactic asides, its picaresque arcs and graceful rhythms, its fancifully woven backward-and-forward plots, only hesitantly assumes the narrative splendor, the intimacy and vigor necessary to transform what is essentially a microcosmic allegory into flesh and bone. Starting with melodrama—John Ashley mysteriously escapes after being unjustly tried for the murder of Breckenridge Lansing—the romance dwells on the assorted adventures of both families, the sorrows and fortunes, the redemptions and long-delayed revelations (Lansing's son, it turns out, is a patricide). Poignancy is here, aphoristic charm, pleasant stretches of unabashed story-telling, and incidental riches. Unfortunately, the Christian humanism, the provincial earnestness on which everything rests seems both too decent and distant for our age.

Pub Date: March 29, 1967

ISBN: 0060088915

Page Count: 1

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1967

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.


From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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