Utter nonsense, but as readable as ever. Really big retro-fun for the gents.


Superprolific chronicler of Afro-colonial glory days Smith continues the saga of the Courtney family from where it left off in Monsoon (1999).

The outcome of Smith’s Big African Adventures is never in doubt: big lusty white men will prevail over evil, grasping white men with considerable assistance from hordes of adoring black men who have had the good sense to recognize lusty leadership when they see it. So what tension there is must come from the many, many, many intermediate battles between the big lusty white men and the evil, grasping white men, and from the electricity that flies between the big lusty white men and the fair bodies of the straight-shooting, outdoor-loving women lucky enough to come into their lives. Sailing now into the lives of the superrich 17th-century British Courtney family is long-legged Louisa Leuven, a plucky Dutch orphan who escaped the plague only to fall into the clutches of a sexually predatory, sadomasochistic, Amsterdam burgher who framed her when she tried to blow the whistle on him. As the ship transporting her and other hussies to the Indies rounds the Cape of Good Hope, Louisa captures the heart of young Jim Courtney, who, when the ship comes a cropper in a squall, spirits her away, enraging the grumpy Dutch overlords of the Cape Colony and forcing the entire Courtney clan to flee with their fortune. Louisa, understandably off sex for the present, is not immune to the manly charms of her rescuer, but Jim is a perfect gentleman, never pushing, just showing her a swell time as they hack their way north, dodging pursuers, slaying animals by the score, riding the finest horseflesh in Africa, prying the biggest tusks anyone has ever seen from elephants unlucky enough to meet up with them. While the young folk blaze new trails, the older generation sails up the east coast and into big trouble. Time to call in those adoring native armies.

Utter nonsense, but as readable as ever. Really big retro-fun for the gents.

Pub Date: May 13, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-27824-1

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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