THE NEWS FROM IRELAND

AND OTHER STORIES

Another Trevor collection of short stories is always good news, and here in these 12 tales (many previously published in The New Yorker), the author again attends to the usually sad, small defeats of victims caught in the consequences of distant searing events, betrayed by their own wrong turns or, worse, simple inadequacy. In the title story, set in Ireland in 1847-48, a dry leaf of a "poor Irish" Protestant butler acts as a kind of persistent guide and prophet to the poverty, starvation, misery and horror of the ravished Irish countryside outside the English-occupied estate of a blandly oblivious, newly arrived English family. The soul he would turn back to England is the governess, a young woman of "principle and sensibility," another in a long line of Ireland's "visitors and strangers." Will she listen? Yes, reluctantly, and she'll be "sick at heart." But like her employers and other destroying strangers, she will, by the close, "learn to live with things." Joureys to times past bring illumination but also loss. In "Virgins" two middle-aged women meet in Italy, too late to ever find again their joyous girlhood friendship in Ireland—drawn apart long ago by the feverish wiles of a dying boy. Yet "that friendship. . .ran deeper than [their] marriages." Torment for torment is the destiny of a young hotel-heir who discarded his lover because of caste and cowardice; and in "On the Zattere," an elderly widower and his daughter, the latter wasted by a self-serving lover, are trapped in a stasis of silent anger. Love is elusive: "Mr. Robin Right" is always just around the corner for an aging chorine; and in Florence, a middle-aged woman disappears (probably dead), and the man she desired, hopelessly impotent, muses on their "affair": "She had arrived at the happiest moment of love, when nothing is destroyed." The dream lies forever out of reach; one simply "settles"; and parents doom children to fear and hatred. As always, Trevor, the consummate storyteller, writes with skill and compassion as he scrupulously weighs the press and passions of time and event on restless lives straining after illusions—or held by the potency of an evil never fully understood.

Pub Date: May 1, 1986

ISBN: 0140088571

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1986

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

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CIRCE

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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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