THE GOLD BUG VARIATIONS

Triumphantly true to form, Powers continues the densely layered and intricate plotting found in his earlier novels (Prisoner's Dilemma, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance) in this stunning epic that delves into molecular genetics, music, and information science, eloquently combining the mysteries of love and the passionate pursuit of knowledge. In a manner reminiscent of A.S. Byatt's Possession, a capable young reference librarian renews her sense of purpose as she and a computer technician/art-historian come together in seeking to recover the past of his co-worker Stuart Ressler, a brilliant older man wasting his talents as the night supervisor in a Brooklyn data- processing facility—and soon unmasked as one of the brightest hopes in genetics in the 1950's who vanished from the field after a promising start. The interweaving threads of narrative reconstruct a tragic affair between Ressler the scientist and a married colleague; a similarly electrifying and devastating relationship between the two sleuths; the perilous path of science as it grapples with the fundamental patterns of life; and the librarian's own obsession with the secrets of genetic coding, initiated in despair after learning of Ressler's death from cancer. Ranging in detail from genetic formulas to musical ones (with the title a typically witty reference to both Bach's variations and the Poe short story), replete with scintillating characters, especially the oddball team of scientists gathered to crack the code on a midwestern campus in the 50's, and structurally as well-tempered as a Bach fugue, the harmonious interplay between personal and scientific drama is both challenging and exquisite. A formidable masterpiece, deeply vital and sparkling in its many facets, whimsical in its prose yet precise in its elucidation- -rewarding in every sense but, in particular, a profoundly moving love story.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 1991

ISBN: 0-688-09891-6

Page Count: 696

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more