Charming Celtic comedy of manners.

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THE DOWRY

A NOVEL OF IRELAND

Idealistic Irish priest anxious to repopulate his parish hatches a scheme to encourage local youths to get married rather than emigrate.

Inspired by the patriotic exhortations of Eamon De Valera, Father Donovan, new curate of Coshlawn Crann, takes it upon himself to slow the ongoing drain of his country’s best and brightest, lost to economic opportunities abroad. Knowing that the charms of country life are not enough in 1946 to convince his youthful parishioners to be fruitful and multiply, he arranges a village-wide prayer campaign to invoke divine intervention in favor of marriage. Two frisky members of the flock, Brideen Conway and Kieran McDermott, don’t need any convincing, but their path to connubial bliss is thwarted by harsh financial realties. The younger son of prosperous farmer Tom McDermott, Kieran has little chance of inheriting the family farm until his crafty father pits him against his rakish, irresponsible older brother Martin. Whoever can pay off the old man gets the land, but Kieran sees no way to acquire the exorbitant £2,000 required, save by seeking his fortune in England. He’ll have to leave his fiancée behind, possibly for years. That part of the plan appeals to the priest, who nurses a secret crush on the fetching schoolmistress. Father Donovan nonetheless comes up with a complicated scheme to help the sweethearts and marry off several other couples at the same time. Meanwhile, Martin proposes to the homely daughter of a wealthy pub-owner purely to get his hands on her dowry. Soon afterward, he gets cold feet, fakes his own death and runs off to Dublin, returning just in time to make mischief for his fiancée and nearly ruin all of Father Donovan’s behind-the-scenes machinations. It all culminates, naturally, with a wedding. But given its generosity toward the characters, this winning effort from former priest Keady (The Altruist, 2003, etc.) can be forgiven its clichés.

Charming Celtic comedy of manners.

Pub Date: March 20, 2007

ISBN: 0-312-36191-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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