An archetypal Irish love story and a perfect novel—sweet, desperate, sad, unforgettable.


The poignancy of life worn down at the elbows, Trevor’s signature note, gently animates another masterpiece.

Until Florian Kilderry, ineffectual photographer sporting a loud necktie, bicycled into Rathmoye, a town where “nothing happened,” Ellie Dillahan never knew she didn’t love her husband. “A young Catholic girl from the hills,” she’s the sort of secretly budding wallflower that Trevor (Cheating at Canasta: Stories, 2007, etc.) typically invests somehow with magic. Ordinary character and circumstance akilter make up his métier, and Rathmoye’s chockablock with both: a Joycean funeral, middle-aged siblings sharing telepathy, a centenarian belting IRA songs from his deathbed, a homeless madman hoarding the useless papers of a long-penniless blueblood family. Inside Ellie, quiet foundling darling of the nuns who reared her, burns long-hidden longing. A grateful contentment grounds her marriage to Dillahan, an aging farmer haunted by the deaths of his child and first wife in an accident he feels he caused. But passion? None. So when Florian turns friendly, she imagines this child of artists, reader of Fitzgerald and Dostoevsky, heir to an 18-room manse, as a romantic, exotic deliverer. And he does turn tender, drawn to Ellie’s pathos, charm and homespun toughness. The attraction simmers; the pair begin to dream of each other, and village tongues start wagging. But Florian withholds a secret: The mansion’s a wreck, he’s buried in debt and only a passport away from Ireland will resurrect him. She fantasizes fire and sweetness; he frets about her with kindness and pity. Pulled between duty and beauty, Ellie is terrified that decent, dear Dillahan will detect her, and agonizes that her soul, nurtured by the nuns into vigilant virtue, will be lost. Will she be lost yet worse should she fail to dare?

An archetypal Irish love story and a perfect novel—sweet, desperate, sad, unforgettable.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02123-9

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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