Atmospheric and quietly moving: a tale that manages to avoid outright bathos as it makes its way along the narrow boundary...

READ REVIEW

HANNAH COULTER

A continuation of Berry’s Port William, Kentucky, saga (Jayber Crow, 2000, etc.), this one told from the perspective of an elderly farmwife looking back on her life and world.

Hannah Coulter comes from that long-past generation of rural Americans who fully expect their lives to pass as uneventfully as their parents’ and grandparents’ and God only knows how many ancestors’ before them. A girl during the hard years of the Great Depression, Hannah experiences want at an early age and learns to make do with little and hope for even less. After growing up on a farm, and after high school, she goes to work as a secretary for a local lawyer and marries her landlady’s nephew Virgil, who gives her one daughter just before he goes overseas in WWII and dies in the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, she marries Nathan, another veteran, who comes from humbler circumstances but works hard to make a living on a small Port William farm for his wife and stepdaughter and their two subsequent sons. Her story takes in the better part of the late 20th century and amounts to a kind of elegy for the starkly beautiful country life that Hannah had always taken for granted but came to love all the more as it faded into history, victim of economic and social change. Her three children all make their way through college and drift from home to become academics and entrepreneurs, while Nathan is more and more hard-pressed to keep the farm running. When he eventually dies of cancer, Hannah thinks the book has finally closed on the Coulter farm—but last-minute help from an expected quarter gives hope to the possibility that a new generation will take charge of the family legacy.

Atmospheric and quietly moving: a tale that manages to avoid outright bathos as it makes its way along the narrow boundary between memoir and nostalgia.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2004

ISBN: 1-59376-036-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Shoemaker & Hoard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more