CROSSING TO SAFETY

Stegner takes a long look back—at four decades of a foursome's life—in a novel that at moments is beguiling, though at others it labors for its theme. Larry Morgan and his wife Sally are young westerners who, one day in Depression-poor 1937, arrive in Madison, Wisconsin, where Larry is to take a one-year teaching post at the University of Wisconsin. Their lives are charmed and transformed when they become friends with Charity and Sid Lang, rich easterners whom the star-struck Morgans take to be the epitome of privilege, grace, and culture. A bosom friendship is formed between the two couples that is to last a lifetime, although that lifetime itself isn't to turn out as ideally as hoped. Success as a writer comes early to Larry Morgan, but his wife Sally is stricken by polio and made permanently a cripple. The elegant Sid Lang, meanwhile, is fired from his post at Madison, with the result that he and Charity (with children) are forced into retreat in the family's Kennedy-esque estate at Battell Pond, Vermont. There they wait out the years of WW II, and there it becomes increasingly clear (in the best sections of the book, which are rich, sure in tone, and reminiscent of, say, the reverberant delicacies of The Good Soldier) that the good Sid is in reality a weak and intellectually hapless man, and that wife Charity is in fact ruthlessly class-driven and relentlessly domineering. The novel ends in 1972, with a macabre reunion of the four friends in Vermont, as Charity orchestrates her own death (of cancer), compelling the others, in their varyingly crippled or exhausted states, to behave in the ways she sees as order-affirming and proper. Widely ambitious, the novel brings vividly to life certain quintessential moments and ideas—the idealistic moment between the Depression and WW II; the poetry-and-backpack rigor of the old New England intelligentsia. But Stegner clings to his theme of undying friendship beyond the point where his material keeps it alive, leading him to an often visibly artificial and conventionalized effort to push things along to their end. In all, less moving as a whole piece than highly remarkable for the fine penetration and achievement of some of its moments.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1987

ISBN: 037575931X

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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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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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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