Showing 211 - 220 of 565 annotations in the genre "Novel"

Turning Back the Sun

Thubron, Colin

Last Updated: Dec-11-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

An insidious plague infests an isolated town in a land that suggests a location like Australia. Although the affliction is not fatal, the enigmatic epidemic is characterized by a discoloration of the skin, generalized malaise, and occasionally aching eyeballs. Its spread seems somehow linked to the lack of rain and the group of native "savages" who inhabit the harsh land outside the town.

Prejudice and paranoia are clearly greater threats to the townspeople than the relatively benign plague that has infiltrated the city. Rayner is a sympathetic and lonely doctor who finds himself caught between the residents of the town and the savages. When both he and his girlfriend, Zoë, develop the pathognomonic pigmentation of the plague, their lives acquire deeper meaning.

The novel ends with an army of soldiers originally intent on exterminating the savages instead withdrawing after the troops witness a mystical native ceremony. Rain clouds overhead are poised to unleash a deluge.

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Transplanted Man

Nigam, Sanjay

Last Updated: Dec-11-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Dr. Sunit "Sonny" Seth is a gifted but troubled (emotionally and spiritually) third year resident who works at a New York hospital that treats and employs many immigrants from India. The sleep-walking Sonny is assigned to care for a prominent Indian politician known as the Transplanted Man, a patient who has already received seven organ transplants and is currently in renal failure.

Sonny mysteriously rescues the Transplanted Man from the brink of death following a kidney transplant but later learns his patient died from a cardiac arrest. Although Sonny is no stranger to personal loss and longing, the death of this special patient serves as a catalyst. He breaks up with his girlfriend, quits his residency, and dreams of relocating to Trinidad. Meanwhile, nearly everyone else Sonny knows seems to be struggling with their role and place in the world as well.

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A stray dog bites the left ankle of 12-year-old Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles. She and her peculiar parents live in a country near the Caribbean Sea during colonial times. Her father belongs to the class of decaying nobility. He is a weak man with poor judgment. Her scheming mother is a nymphomaniac who abuses cacao tablets and fermented honey. Sierva Maria is more or less raised by the family's slaves whose culture she assimilates. The youngster has luxuriant copper-colored hair and a penchant for lying--"she wouldn't tell the truth even by mistake" according to her mother. (p. 16)

Before long, the dog dies of rabies. When Sierva Maria begins exhibiting bizarre behavior, no one is quite sure of the cause even though everyone seems to have his or her own theory. Is the girl displaying signs of rabies? Is she possessed by a demon? The physician Abrenuncio doubts either diagnosis. The powerful Bishop believes the girl may require an exorcism. Perhaps Sierva Maria is simply eccentric or maybe even crazy. Ninety-three days after being bitten by the dog, she is locked in a cell in the Convent of Santa Clara.

The Bishop appoints his protégé, 36-year-old Father Cayetano Delaura, to investigate the matter. The priest is immediately infatuated with the girl. When the Bishop learns of Cayetano Delaura's love for Sierva Maria and his unacceptable actions, the priest is disciplined and then relegated to caring for lepers at the hospital. The Bishop next takes matters into his own hands by performing the rite of exorcism on Sierva Maria. After five sessions, she is found in bed "dead of love." (p. 147)

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The English Patient

Ondaatje, Michael

Last Updated: Dec-06-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the final year of World War II, in a bomb-damaged villa in the hills north of Florence, four characters seek shelter and in their various ways attempt to undo the damage of the war. Kip, the Indian munitions expert, by day disarms unexploded mines and bombs. The title character, badly burned all over his body when his plane crashed in the desert, lies in a bed, morphine deadening his pain and loosening his memory, reminiscing about a love affair and his career in military intelligence as a desert expert.

The young Canadian nurse Hana, emotionally shut down as the result of her work in the war and the death of her lover, has refused to withdraw with her unit and lovingly tends to the English patient and develops an intimate relation with Kip. Caravaggio, a friend of Hana's parents and with an ambiguous interest in her, dips into Hana's supply of morphine and uses his intelligence skills to steal things for the group and also to probe into the mystery of the history and identity of the "English" patient. The novel ends shortly after radio news of the dropping of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki drives Kip away from the company of the companions he sees with angry irony as part of a destructive "Western wisdom" (p. 284).

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This short novel is based on the student-led Mexican uprising of 1968. The reader discovers that the protagonist, Nestor, is in a hospital bed one year after the government's brutal suppression of the rebellion, recovering from a stabbing at the hands of a "prostitute-assassin" he had confronted in his post-rebellion duties as a "yellow journalist." With plenty of time to think about the failures of the previous year, Nestor decides to finish off the revolution from his sick bed, and elicits the help of his heroes, both actual and fictional, to carry out his plan.

The various heroes Nestor calls upon include "the hound" from Hound of the Baskervilles and Sherlock Holmes; the Earp brothers and their companion, Doc Holliday; the four Musketeers; the Light Brigade; and various other anti-colonialists and anti-imperialists, including Norman Bethune (see film annotation, Bethune: The Making of a Hero), the Tigers of Malaysia, and the Mau-Mau. These characters are summoned by Nestor (and Taibo) as a means to revivify the "Movement of '68" that ended in the massacre of 49 students, the wounding of 500 others, and the detention of 1500 persons on October 2nd of that year.

Jorge Castaneda notes in the preface to this novel, "only fairy tales or adventure stories could heal the wounds and keep the promises of the streets . . . "(p.vii). It is the imagined hero's power to reconfigure events to which the desperate Nestor turned in his attempt to heal the past.

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A Gesture Life

Lee, Chang-rae

Last Updated: Dec-06-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Franklin Hata, comfortably retired from his medical supply business, reflects on his life--a life that spans several continents, three cultures (ethnic Korean brought up in Japan and emigrating in adulthood to the U.S.), service as a medic in World War II (in the Imperial Army of Japan), adoptive fatherhood, and a fizzled out romance with a well-to-do suburban Caucasian widow. At first out of place in the wealthy New York suburb where he settled, Hata has worked hard to achieve acceptance there, taking pains to fit in, creating no disturbances, never complaining, even when provoked by thoughtless schoolchildren or narrow minded adults.

The major disappointment of his adult life has been his tempestuous relationship with his adopted mixed-race daughter, Sunny, who left his home to live on her own when only a teenager. Even failed parenthood, however, has been absorbed by Hata. For although Hata claims that he had always wished to "pass through with something more than a life of gestures," (299) in fact he has labored to maintain equilibrium with a carefully designed "gesture life" of daily routine and superficial social niceties.

In the idleness of retirement and the solitude of his large, empty Tudor home, disturbing memories impinge on these routines and force a re-evaluation of his life and his relationship with the estranged Sunny. As a young medic during World War II, Hata had undergone an emotional and moral crisis when he fell in love with one of the Korean "comfort women" brought into his care in the Japanese army camp (in Burma) to which he was assigned. In the midst of rape and murder, Hata had to make choices, and these choices he can no longer justify to himself.

Further, he comes to understand that his relationship with his daughter has been colored by those long ago events. "In a way, it was a kind of ignoring that I did, an avoidance of her as Sunny -- difficult, rash, angry Sunny -- which I masked with a typical performance of consensus building and subtle pressure, which always is the difficult work of attempting to harmonize one's life and the lives of those whom one cherishes." (284)

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The Shrine at Altimara

L'Heureux, John

Last Updated: Dec-05-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Written in a style resembling religious litany, this is the tale of a disastrous teen-age marriage and its criminal consequences. The setting is California. Maria is a poor Mexican-American who meets and attracts Russell, a working class Anglo. Although ambivalent, Maria sees marriage to Russell as the path to American, white respectability. Her earlier hopes of achieving this status through her own efforts have been frustrated by the reality of poor academic performance. She is eager to get away from the household of her deeply religious mother. Russell is brooding, taciturn, and carries the physical and psychic wounds of an abused childhood--his father is a partially reformed alcoholic who deliberately burned Russell's hand.

The pair are ill-equipped for marriage or parenthood and Maria soon feels trapped. Their son, John, avoids provoking them by being a "good boy," hoping to prevent their frequent arguments. Russell's deprived childhood accounts, perhaps, for his obsessively jealous fixation on Maria. He is jealous even of the attention she gives their son.

The catastrophe that seems always close at hand finally occurs: Russell sets fire to his own child. The second part of the novel is told primarily from John's perspective as he undergoes a prolonged, painful rehabilitation and tries to find meaning in these events. It is also the story of the plastic surgeon who attempts to restore John's horribly scarred body and who has come to doubt the purpose of his profession (there is nothing he can do about destructive family relationships and psychic scars). Russell, who has been brutalized in jail, is released, seeking redemption. Fire, significant throughout the story, plays a final shocking (redemptive?) role.

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Still Waters in Niger

Hill, Kathleen

Last Updated: Dec-05-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Described as an autobiographical novel, this book is narrated in the first person and reads like a memoir. But it is a "memoir" charged with atmosphere, imagery, and longing. The narrator is an American woman, a mother of three children, and the wife of an academic. After an absence of 17 years she has returned to Niger--the country in northwestern Africa where she had lived with her three small children and husband, while the latter was completing his doctoral dissertation. Now she is visiting her oldest child, Zara, who has been living for the past two years in Niger, and working in a medical clinic.

As the narrator reacquaints herself with the culture and climate of the country, she re-visits--in memory--young motherhood, her relationship with the six-year-old Zara, and her interactions with the people and surroundings. The novel shifts back and forth between the past and the present Niger while the narrator attempts to integrate her experiences: she sees the country and her daughter through new eyes.

She is overwhelmed with guilt about what she calls her "inattention" (17 years ago) to the lives of the Nigerans around her; guilt about her failure to learn the native language; guilt toward her children, for her own self absorption. "After all, what was I doing the year we lived in Zinder [the city where they had lived]? That is the question that looms between Zara and me . . . Of what was I thinking? It is not enough to say that instead of working in a clinic [as Zara now does] I was spending my days with Lizzie and Tulu and herself. That doesn't answer it. All of Zinder waited beyond the gate." (71)

The narrator watches with admiration and envy as Zara interacts comfortably, even intimately, with the native women and their children, speaks the language fluently, and negotiates her way with self assurance in this foreign land. Not only does the narrator feel inept, she feels that she has "lost Zara to a world in which I am entirely a stranger." (73) Thus cultural dislocation becomes the trigger for intense reflections on the nature of parenthood, and the female experience of marriage, pregnancy, motherhood, and aging. These reflections are magnified by the narrator's loss of her own mother, who has recently died.

The native women that she meets through Zara help her to understand that some of these experiences transcend cultures, even though their surface manifestations may differ. For example, the often hyper-critical attitude toward first born children, and the refusal of native parents to even utter the name of the first born child relates to the shame associated with this evidence that the mother has lost her virginity. "Shame is the right word, exactly," thinks the narrator, "and I wonder now that I have not stumbled on this knowledge before." (77) But more than the "thorough and irrevocable . . . violation of the space around one's skin" it is the associated separation from the mother that the narrator recognizes as being at the core of sexual awakening; it is this inevitable separation from her own daughter that she is now trying to absorb.

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Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story concerns four sisters embarked on two concurrent journeys: one from adolescence to adulthood; the other from a comfortable, predictable life in the Dominican Republic to an uneasy resettlement in the United States. In addition to the normal difficulties associated with growing up, political turmoil abruptly uproots the lively young women from their native land with its Latin culture, tropical environment, and extended family life, forcing them to struggle with a strange language and even stranger culture.

Alvarez's collection of stories by each of the sisters cuts back and forth in time and place, shifting from childhood experiences on the vibrant Caribbean island to pubescent years and beyond in the Bronx and elsewhere. One episode vividly portrays an act of male exposure, the impact of that exposure on the confused adolescent, and the compounding of that confusion during an insensitive interrogation by police officers.

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Animal Dreams

Kingsolver, Barbara

Last Updated: Dec-04-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Cosima Nolinas (Codi) trained as a physician, but decided during her residency to give up medicine. As the novel opens, she is returning to her hometown, Grace, Arizona, to teach high school biology and care for her physician father, Doc Homero, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Her younger sister, Hallie, has just left for Nicaragua to help with agricultural development. Codi's journey back to where she grew up reinforces a sense of aimlessness which she attributes to the death of her mother when she was three years old, to the miscarriage of an unwanted pregnancy when she was fifteen, and to her father's remoteness. She intends her stay to be temporary.

But gradually she is drawn into the community. She restarts a relationship with Loyd [sic] Peregrina, the Native-American father--though she never told him--of the child she lost in high school. She joins the town's struggle against a mining company that has polluted the town's water supply and now plans to dam the river. As her father's condition deteriorates, she learns more about the history of his connection with the town and, by examining the results of a life-long study he has done on a genetic anomaly affecting children born to second-generation inhabitants of Grace, she learns that her own hereditary background is far more deeply rooted in the town than she had known.

Codi's narrative is interspersed with her father's confused but illuminating memories of her childhood, and with the letters she receives from Hallie, who has always been the motivated and determined sister. When Hallie is kidnapped and then murdered by the contras, Codi's first response is to run away once more, but in laying her sister to rest and telling Loyd about their lost child, she realizes that she has found her home and--in her fierce and practical education of the new generation of Grace adolescents--her purpose.

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