A nice portrait of an interesting (and underappreciated) time and place.



An elegant and thoughtful historical set in 17th-century Maryland.

The Chesapeake State had one of the most colorful and turbulent histories of the original 13 colonies. Settled in 1634 by Lord Baltimore, it was originally intended as a haven for Catholics fleeing persecution in England, and a large proportion of its founding fathers were Catholic aristocrats and Jesuit missionaries. The first colony to permit the free exercise of religion, it inspired resentment among its (Protestant) neighbors and was invaded by Puritans, who expelled the Jesuits and forbade Catholicism. Karlin, whose sixth novel this is (Prisoners, 1998, etc.), presents a fairly large cast, but it’s representative: the adventurer James Hallam (by turns mercenary, carpenter, indentured servant, and aspiring politician); the black slave Ezekiel (born in Dahomey and transported to Barbados, where he spares his master’s life in a slave uprising and is forced to flee for his own); the Piscataway Indian Tawzin (kidnapped as a child and carried away to England, where he is baptized as John Christman and later returns to Maryland a devout Catholic); the Jesuit scholar and missionary Father White (exhausted from years of religious exile from his native England); the Jewish trader Jacob Lambroso (a friend of Tawzin and Ezekiel), and, in the background, the large and influential Calvert family (founders and first governors of the colony). Although larger historical currents are present, this is a story of private lives first, focussing on the tribulations of the individual characters (as when Tawzin is falsely accused of abducting his own wife and brought to trial), and it succeeds admirably in making their lives credible and interesting. While, particularly in Ezekiel’s sections (“I thought then that Tawzin loved Lombroso as a wise son does who forgives his father for seeing a dream in his son’s fallible flesh and forming spirit”), the language can be overblown, for the most part it’s quite readable.

A nice portrait of an interesting (and underappreciated) time and place.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-880684-89-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Curbstone Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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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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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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