THE ORANGE TREE

Fuentes continues to interpret the clash between the Old and New Worlds with dazzling imaginative insight in five novellas that span a spectrum of eras and individuals. Each story features an orange tree, the symbolic presence of Spain, brought by the Moors to Spain and then later carried by the Conquistadors to Mexico. "Could any image verify a Spaniard's identity better than the sight of a man eating an orange?" asks the dead narrator of the first novella, The Two Shores, which is as much an investigation of the power of language as an interpretation of the Spanish conquest. In it the dead man recalls how, after being shipwrecked, he had lived among the natives, learned their language, and planted an orange tree. He is found by Cortes, who employs him as a translator until he is supplanted by Cortes' mistress, a Mayan. In The Sons of the Conquistadors, two heirs of Cortes dispute the interpretation of their father's will, which they regard as promising redress to the Mayans. "I'm sick of the spectacle of death...I don't understand how a nation is born," observes the one exiled to Spain. The Two Numantias is on one level a history of the Roman conquest of Spain, on another a meditation on the power of language, which "constructs the work of art." In Apollo and the Whores, an aging Hollywood actor, the only American to win an Oscar for a role in a foreign film, comes to Acapulco, and on a macabre ship of whores, finds in death his greatest role. The fifth novella, The Two Americas, is a satirical reworking of Columbus' search for the Indies, but here he finds paradise and never leaves until forced out by entrepreneurs of the future seeking a pristine spot in a polluted world. Exuberantly imaginative and unabashedly sensual, Fuentes, even when the conceits seem strained, never fails to entertain, instruct — and, yes, provoke.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-374-22683-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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