Another novel about a novelist, but radiantly colored, sensuous, respectful and rapt; an impressive debut.

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THE JUNGLE LAW

Rudyard Kipling, living in rural Vermont, writes The Jungle Book and changes the destiny of his neighbors.

Vinton sets her first novel in the late-19th century and constructs it around the contrasting households of an emerging writer and a struggling immigrant farmer. Kipling and his proud, pregnant wife Carrie have arrived to build their dream house, Naulakha, on land adjacent to Jack Connolly's small spread. Kipling, with his exotic background combining India and England, relishes the beauty and isolation of this remote location; Connolly, Irish and disappointed, fumes against and fears the harsh winter and his endlessly backbreaking, scarcely profitable work. The families interact through Addie Connolly, who does the Kiplings’ laundry, and Jack's 11-year-old son Joe, who falls under the spell of Kipling's whimsical inventiveness. A dreamy, sensitive boy, Joe is initially enchanted by the writer's energy; when invited to advise on the story of Mowgli and his animal companions, he begins to identify with the fictional child. Winter closes in as Carrie—assisted by Addie—gives birth to a daughter, but Joe, having broken his leg in an accident, retreats a little from Kipling. In the spring, the writer asks Jack, an ex-railway man, to help dynamite some land. The combination of Jack's slow-burning anger, Kipling's distracting waywardness and Joe's torn loyalties leads to another, more emotional explosion. Joe runs away from home, leaving the two couples to go their separate ways. Addie sees the wisdom of Joe's absence and works to restore closeness with Jack; Kipling, simultaneously dominated and protected by Carrie, will achieve success but also experience great grief and loss. Vinton mines a rich vein of intensity whether writing about landscape and weather, or the soul-expanding possibilities of the creative life. While her characterizations can be overdrawn, especially those of the Kiplings, and the narrative oddly paced, the confident empathy of Vinton’s writing moves the story beyond its weak spots.

Another novel about a novelist, but radiantly colored, sensuous, respectful and rapt; an impressive debut.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2005

ISBN: 1-59692-149-8

Page Count: 312

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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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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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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