Entertaining and thoroughly engrossing.

THE OTHER BENNET SISTER

Another reboot of Jane Austen?!? Hadlow pulls it off in a smart, heartfelt novel devoted to bookish Mary, middle of the five sisters in Pride and Prejudice.

Part 1 recaps Pride and Prejudice through Mary’s eyes, climaxing with the humiliating moment when she sings poorly at a party and older sister Elizabeth goads their father to cut her off in front of everyone. The sisters’ friend Charlotte, who marries the unctuous Mr. Collins after Elizabeth rejects him, emerges as a pivotal character; her conversations with Mary are even tougher-minded here than those with Elizabeth depicted by Austen. In Part 2, two years later, Mary observes on a visit that Charlotte is deferential but remote with her husband; she forms an intellectual friendship with the neglected and surprisingly nice Mr. Collins that leads to Charlotte’s asking Mary to leave. In Part 3, Mary finds refuge in London with her kindly aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. Mrs. Gardiner is the second motherly woman, after Longbourn housekeeper Mrs. Hill, to try to undo the psychic damage wrought by Mary’s actual mother, shallow, status-obsessed Mrs. Bennet, by building up her confidence and buying her some nice clothes (funded by guilt-ridden Lizzy). Sure enough, two suitors appear: Tom Hayward, a poetry-loving lawyer who relishes Mary’s intellect but urges her to also express her feelings; and William Ryder, charming but feckless inheritor of a large fortune, whom naturally Mrs. Bennet loudly favors. It takes some maneuvering to orchestrate the estrangement of Mary and Tom, so clearly right for each other, but debut novelist Hadlow manages it with aplomb in a bravura passage describing a walking tour of the Lake District rife with seething complications furthered by odious Caroline Bingley. Her comeuppance at Mary’s hands marks the welcome final step in our heroine’s transformation from a self-doubting wallflower to a vibrant, self-assured woman who deserves her happy ending. Hadlow traces that progression with sensitivity, emotional clarity, and a quiet edge of social criticism Austen would have relished.

Entertaining and thoroughly engrossing.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-12941-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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