This novel seeps with the sweet satisfaction of staking a place in the world.

STUBBORN ARCHIVIST

A novel about a Brazilian British woman takes a fresh approach to bicultural identity.

Readers of Rodrigues Fowler’s debut might feel an early sense of confusion. Memoir? Poetry? Creative nonfiction? There are elements of all in this captivating, unconventional novel. Like the author, the unnamed protagonist was raised in a Brazilian British household. Many familiar themes appear. The woman is perceived as foreign in South London, the only place she's called home, while she's deemed not quite Brazilian by her extended family. The story is animated through intimate details that conjure the sights, the sounds, and the smells of each event: As the protagonist visits Brazil or cooks with her grandmother, Rodrigues Fowler evokes the taste of Brazilian food, the music of Portuguese. But the story is also told between the lines, as when Isadora, the main character’s mother, recalls her English in-laws learning she was going to marry their son. A pleasant visit ended with Isadora kissing and hugging her future mother-in-law goodbye, as is her tradition, and her soon-to-be husband doing the same, later revealing, “You know, that is the first time I have hugged my mother in fifteen years.” It seems gimmicky to leave the main character unnamed, but by the end, readers will feel they know her from the many stories shared about her family and her interactions, over time, with her mother, grandmother, aunt, female friends, the men and women she loves, and her response to those confused or attracted to her “foreignness.” As the novel ends, the protagonist has become comfortable in her skin, embracing all the facets of who she is, realizing the strength of her Brazilian heritage with a full-bodied, heartfelt embrace.

This novel seeps with the sweet satisfaction of staking a place in the world.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-358-00608-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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

THE HANDMAID'S TALE

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

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