My Four Women and Elvis


Bartlett’s debut novel centers on Bill, a 49-year-old British man, and the women in his life.

From the start, Bill shows himself to be completely devoted to the women of his family. He endures his mom’s questions when she must confirm his identity before opening the door for him; he reminisces about his dead sister; and he contemplates his love for his wife, Sandra, and his daughter, Laura. He speaks of his impending status as a middle-aged man, saying that he feels caught between the needs of his children and his mother—“[b]oth demand attention, and you’re ham-sandwiched in the middle. And personally, I feel like squashed ham between two slices of Mighty Bran.” The majority of the book dwells on these ruminations. “I realise I’ve finally reached that golden age when eighty-year-old women find me irresistible,” he says. “It’s a twilight age.” His thoughts on retirement, taking care of his quirky mother and his daughter’s first experiences with love are driving forces of the narrative as he guides readers through his largely pleasant existence and enjoyable family dynamics. With wife, daughter and cat, there are plenty of crass but sweet interactions; it’s a functioning, funny family, and it’s refreshing to spend time with them. Bartlett’s prose is clear, and Bill’s light, witty voice as narrator is enjoyable throughout, particularly in his lists of things he wished he had accomplished or the nine commandments he’s discovered so far. Both Bill and the author are first and foremost jokesters: The prologue, for instance, may leave readers expecting an appearance by the actual king of rock ’n’ roll, as referenced in the title, though they’ll have a good chuckle when Elvis’ true identity is revealed. But as Bill approaches his 50th birthday, Bartlett also follows him into darker, more troubling realities. There are painful memories of his sister, Kate, his father’s passing and an accident, as well as a surprising announcement from his wife that brings these issues into sharper focus. Fortunately, through it all, Bill remains a delight to be around.

A readable slice-of-life novel that turns the days of an ordinary man into endearing, funny episodes and observations.

Pub Date: June 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495449727

Page Count: 246

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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