An engaging, if not absorbing, story of cultural adaptation, with sympathetic characters and ample historical detail.

FAR AWAY, I LAND

Individuals of Hungarian, Sri Lankan and English descents cross paths in Alles-Crouch’s debut novel.

Beginning with a brief look in Sri Lanka at the lives of Englishman Robert Cross, his Hungarian wife, Erzsike, and their daughter, Beya, the book then quickly flashes back to World War II. In Hungary, young Erzsike, the daughter of affectionate parents, enjoys a life rich in tradition and compassion for others; her family even hides a Jewish professor from the Germans. Robert, born in London to a loving mother and a stern father with an iron fist, later moves with his family to Canada. World War II begins, and Robert goes to war at 18, displaying leadership qualities throughout his distinguished military service. Urged by friend and lover Rudi, Erzsike reluctantly flees her homeland and the barbarism of the Russians during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In 1945 in Ceylon, Harriet Meedeniya is captivated when she first lays eyes on Cyril Alvis, private secretary to the inspector of police whom Robert met during the war. They marry and have children, including fair-skinned Prema, an intelligent, resourceful boy eager to escape his ritualistically abusive father. Alles-Crouch’s novel is a timely reminder that revolution is not new, and it comes at a price. The tale is mostly well-told, with various plotlines neatly integrated, although an occasional passage seems out of place. The story spans decades without the feel of an epic sweep; despite war and revolution being factors, this isn’t historical fiction. The primary focus is on individuals of differing ethnic backgrounds, their reactions to circumstances beyond their control and their efforts to successfully adjust to a foreign culture. Robert admires Erzsike’s struggle to survive, yet after their marriage, she feels pressured to be more English, even changing her name to Elizabeth. The once–love-struck Harriet, inextricably linked to a wife-beating husband who nearly kills her, eventually finds life meaningless. Readers won’t be able to help but root for resilient Prema, who, unlike his mother, retains his humanity in the face of savagery, humiliation and neglect. Like smoke from a fire, he rises.

An engaging, if not absorbing, story of cultural adaptation, with sympathetic characters and ample historical detail.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-62901-025-0

Page Count: 359

Publisher: Inkwater Press

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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

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

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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

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