SATURNALIA

Fleischman, 1989 Newbery poetry winner, returns with historical fiction about masters and servants in 17th-century Boston. Kindly Mr. Currie, a printer, celebrates the winter solstice with an innocent day of role reversal: he and his wife serve their apprentices and their six children a feast; in the tradition of the ancient Saturnalia, wine flows and merriment prevails. But for many of their neighbors, the darker side of the season, resonant with the bitter legacy of King Philip's War six years earlier, is paramount. In carefully composed vignettes, Fleischman portrays the denizens of the night—a woodcarver who links his daughter's death to a haunting memory of massacring Indians; Stalking Rudd, a vicious eyeglass-maker, the terror of his apprentices; a mysterious lurker in the shadows; the night-watch. By contrast, a buffoon of a wigmaker and his conniving servant play their slapstick roles by day. In both worlds is William, Currie's Indian apprentice, who ranges abroad at night seeking the family from which he was brutally separated by the war; who is the obvious scapegoat when Rudd comes to a mysterious violent end; and who finally draws together the story's disparate strands in a choice he makes. Like Leon Garfield, Fleischman brings the past to life with pungent descriptions, incisive portraits, and robust humor. He observes his dark drama with a compassionate modern conscience and relates it with a storyteller's sense of audience and a poet's precision. A fine achievement.

Pub Date: April 10, 1990

ISBN: 006447089X

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1990

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A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary,...

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THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE

The pitiless dictatorship of Francisco Franco examined through the voices of four teenagers: one American and three Spaniards.

The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936-1939, but Franco held Spain by its throat for 36 years. Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2016, etc.) begins her novel in 1957. Daniel is a white Texan who wants to be a photojournalist, not an oilman; Ana is trying to work her way to respectability as a hotel maid; her brother, Rafael, wants to erase memories of an oppressive boys’ home; and Puri is a loving caregiver for babies awaiting adoption—together they provide alternating third-person lenses for viewing Spain during one of its most brutally repressive periods. Their lives run parallel and intersect as each tries to answer questions about truth and the path ahead within a regime that crushes any opposition, murders dissidents, and punishes their families while stealing babies to sell to parents with accepted political views. This formidable story will haunt those who ask hard questions about the past as it reveals the hopes and dreams of individuals in a nation trying to lie its way to the future. Meticulous research is presented through believable, complex characters on the brink of adulthood who personalize the questions we all must answer about our place in the world. 

A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary, photographs) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-16031-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more.

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THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

A monster spreads madness through the streets of Shanghai.

It is the autumn of 1926, and Shanghai is poised at the brink of transformation. Foreign powers have carved out portions of the city for themselves; what remains is divided between two feuding gangs, the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has returned home from New York City, wreathed in a reputation for ruthlessness and ready to step into her role as heir to the Scarlet Gang. Four years ago, a betrayal by the White Flowers heir, Roma Montagov, a young man of 19, led to the deaths of countless Scarlets, and Juliette is determined to avenge her gang. But when a lethal contagion strikes the city, targeting Scarlets and White Flowers alike, Juliette and Roma grudgingly agree to cooperate on an investigation in order to save their city. The slow-burning romance in this book takes a back seat to the gripping mystery grounded in immersive historical detail. Allusions to Romeo and Juliet are evident in names and specific scenes, but familiar themes of family, loyalty, and identity bear new significance in Gong’s inventive adaptation. Language is a tool wielded deftly by the multilingual characters, who switch easily among English, French, Shanghainese, Russian, and more, with Mandarin as the primary dialect for Chinese phrases. A strong supporting cast that includes a trans girl completes this striking debut.

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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