Trevor’s thirthieth—and one of his best. Though faintly mannered and stiff in the telling, it’s a beautiful story of...


A moving tale of history gone wrong and tragedy redeemed, by renowned Irish novelist Trevor (The Hill Bachelors, 2000, etc.).

The Gaults have lived in Ireland a long time—since the 16th century, at least, although they didn’t develop their estate at Lahardane until the 1700s. But the Irish have long memories, and the fact that the Gaults originally came to the island as adventurers in the service of the British Crown set them apart from the natives well into the 20th century. During the uprisings that raged throughout the countryside in the years immediately following WWI, the Gaults (like most Protestant landlords) found themselves in real peril of their lives. After a group of insurrectionists attempted to set fire to their house one night, Captain and Mrs. Gault decided that enough was enough and made hasty plans to leave Ireland. Their nine-year-old daughter Lucy, however, refused to go, running away the night before they were scheduled to depart. Unfortunately, the Gaults concluded that she was dead rather than missing, and they became all the more determined to put Ireland behind them forever. By the time the girl was discovered alive (by the household staff), Lucy’s parents were gone for parts unknown, and all attempts to track them down failed. So Lucy grew up alone at Lahardane, looked after by the kindly caretaker couple and provided for by the family solicitor. During these years, one of the young men who tried to torch the house at Lahardane becomes increasingly guilt-ridden over his actions, eventually deciding that he has to confront the people he attempted to kill. Captain Gault comes home after many years to an Ireland (and a daughter) changed beyond recognition. And a careful, difficult, strange, and beautiful reconciliation is worked out at Lahardane.

Trevor’s thirthieth—and one of his best. Though faintly mannered and stiff in the telling, it’s a beautiful story of history, grief, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-670-03154-2

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.


The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

Did you like this book?



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?