A portrait of university life that’s contemplative and nostalgic.


Finch (An Old Betrayal, 2013, etc.) creates a lyrical ode to youth, idealism and love in a contemporary novel about a young man’s year of graduate studies at Oxford University.

There are moments and people that significantly impact a person’s life and spur major transitions, and Yale graduate William Baker experiences both when he arrives on the Fleet campus of Oxford. As he describes his year, he reflects upon the emotional, physical and intellectual journey that ushers him into the world of adulthood. While countless college students around the world routinely engage in activities similar to Will’s, what makes this fairly routine coming-of-age story so appealing is twofold: Finch’s accomplished narrative skills and his ability to connect each character with the reader. Will, a former campaign worker for John Kerry’s unsuccessful 2004 presidential bid, leaves his girlfriend, Alison, stateside and settles into student life in England, which he and Alison remind themselves is only for a year. But it’s a year that challenges their relationship, as Will contemplates social barriers, financial comfort and his feelings for Sophie, a fellow Oxford student who’s involved with another man. Will also develops friendships with a diverse group: snobbish Tom, who looks down on Will for being American but becomes his closest friend; Anil, a student from Mumbai who comically embraces hip-hop but can’t mask his concise BBC accent; Timmo, whose one aspiration is to be a participant in a television reality series; chronically broke, good friend Ella, who falls for Tom; and Anneliese, a German student and talented photographer. Will’s experiences aren’t all that unique: The friends drink and party together, fall in and out of love, and support each other during difficult times and devastating losses. But Finch brings each character to life with striking effectiveness as they struggle with issues of class, the political climate, academics and their futures.

A portrait of university life that’s contemplative and nostalgic.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-01871-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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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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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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