Call it a Spaghetti Epic: Manfredi’s narration of ancient Greek history owes as much to John Ford and George Lucas as it...

SPARTAN

Two brothers in ancient Greece, separated at birth, come together to rescue their nation in the Persian Wars.

Italian architect Manfredi (Alexander, not reviewed, etc.) starts with twin brothers in Sparta. One of them, born with a crippled leg, will never be able to fight and so (in accordance with Spartan custom) is left in the woods to die. But he is found by the kindly Helot shepherd Kritolaos, who takes pity on the baby and brings him home to be raised as his own. Talos (as he is named) grows up among the Helots (who were enslaved by the Spartans) ignorant of his true ancestry. Brithos, the other twin, is raised to follow in the warrior traditions of his people. On his deathbed, Kritolaos entrusts Talos with his greatest possession: the armor and sword of Aristodemus, the defeated king of the Helots, which Kritolaos had secretly kept hidden away these many years. But Talos has no ambitions to glory. He tends to his flocks and falls in love with Antinea, the daughter of a local Helot tenant farmer. When Brithos, traveling through the region with some Spartan friends, comes upon Antinea and tries to rape her, however, Talos springs to her defense and discovers within himself a taste for battle he had never known before. Conscripted as an orderly to Brithos, he has his true identity revealed to him by an oracle. Meanwhile, Xerxes the Persian has raised the greatest army ever known and is on the verge of overrunning Greece. Brithos falls in battle, as does his father. Can Talos (now known as Kleidemos) save the day? He can certainly play his part.

Call it a Spaghetti Epic: Manfredi’s narration of ancient Greek history owes as much to John Ford and George Lucas as it does to Herodotus. But while this is a fairly accurate narration of ancient history, the private dramas involved are too outlandish and overdrawn to be read with a straight face.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-7434-7542-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more