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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION

A young New York woman figures there’s nothing wrong with existence that a fistful of prescriptions and months of napping wouldn’t fix.

Moshfegh’s prickly fourth book (Homesick for Another World, 2017, etc.) is narrated by an unnamed woman who’s decided to spend a year “hibernating.” She has a few conventional grief issues. (Her parents are both dead, and they’re much on her mind.) And if she’s not mentally ill, she’s certainly severely maladjusted socially. (She quits her job at an art gallery in obnoxious, scatological fashion.) But Moshfegh isn’t interested in grief or mental illness per se. Instead, she means to explore whether there are paths to living that don’t involve traditional (and wearying) habits of consumption, production, and relationships. To highlight that point, most of the people in the narrator's life are offbeat or provisional figures: Reva, her well-meaning but shallow former classmate; Trevor, a boyfriend who only pursues her when he’s on the rebound; and Dr. Tuttle, a wildly incompetent doctor who freely gives random pill samples and presses one drug, Infermiterol, that produces three-day blackouts. None of which is the stuff of comedy. But Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. (Recovering from one blackout, the narrator thinks, “What had I done? Spent a spa day then gone out clubbing?...Had Reva convinced me to go ‘enjoy myself’ or something just as idiotic?”) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn’t advisable, but there’s still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story in how it urges second-guessing the nature of our attachments while revealing how hard it is to break them.

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52211-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

  • New York Times Bestseller

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.

Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02619-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

more