Pears’ achievement is in his fine evocation of an era that's largely been lost and in his attention to the natural world.

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THE REDEEMED

Battle, its aftermath, and the dawning of a new era shape the third episode of Pears’ (The Wanderers, 2018, etc.) epic tale of love—love for the land and between two long-separated souls.

The pace rarely quickens in this deliberate concluding volume of Pears’ trilogy of early-20th-century life, set in England’s West Country during the transition from old farming and landscape traditions, through war, into the mechanical age. Nevertheless, separate moments of intense drama mold the lives of both landowner’s daughter Lottie Prideaux and carter’s son Leo Sercombe, who was cast out by his family years earlier. Like Ulysses, Leo has journeyed through multiple landscapes and perils before returning to the estate. As the novel opens he’s a boy seaman in World War I, aboard HMS Queen Mary and about to enter the Battle of Jutland, which will see the death of nearly the entire crew, more than a thousand men and boys. Leo survives to become a deep sea diver, spending the postwar years helping salvage the scuttled German fleet at Scapa Flow and earning the money to buy himself “a field. A horse. A home.” Lottie, meanwhile, is pursuing an interest in animal care and will become one of the first women to train as a vet. The stage is long set for the reunion of this pair whose class-spanning commitment to each other was made in childhood, but not before Pears once again lays down intensely detailed descriptions of work—in the navy, in the salvage business, in stables, fields, and barns—across the years. "Time proceeds along its ever-onward spiral. We join it for a moment," he observes, and in due course Leo and Lottie will converge. This book is less a climax, more the return of the native.

Pears’ achievement is in his fine evocation of an era that's largely been lost and in his attention to the natural world.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-382-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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