Showing 481 - 490 of 578 annotations in the genre "Novel"

The Commodore

O'Brian, Patrick

Last Updated: Nov-16-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the 17th of Patrick O'Brian's novels about the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey of the British Navy, and his friend, Stephen Maturin, the ship's surgeon and secret intelligence agent. Aubrey is a large, hearty, cheerful man who loves music and astronomy, and whose fortunes wax and wane as O'Brian follows him through numerous engagements and exploits around the world, roughly from 1800 to 1815. (While the early books in this series place Aubrey in some of the actual sea battles of the British war against Napoleon, "real time" gets suspended in the later novels.)

Maturin is small, dark, and secretive; of Irish and Basque descent; and a Roman Catholic. Nonetheless, he hates Napoleon so much that he becomes an agent for the British, working under the intelligence chief, Sir Joseph Blaine. Maturin is also a famous physician and naturalist, and he plays the cello to Aubrey's violin. The two men are the closest of friends, despite their many differences; in fact, this series of novels is the story of two complex and engaging characters and their years of friendship, as much as it is a series of sea yarns and adventures.

In The Commodore, Aubrey and Maturin have returned to England after a protracted trip around the world that occupied the previous four novels. Aubrey happily spends time with his wife and children, but Maturin discovers that his wife, Diana, has disappeared and his young daughter appears to be autistic.

Shortly, Aubrey receives orders to lead a squadron of ships to the west African coast, where he is to harass the slavers and, on the return voyage, to engage a French squadron being sent (secretly) to attack Ireland. Maturin joins the squadron after carrying his daughter to safety in Spain. They successfully knock off some slaving ships and terrorize the Coast of Guinea, before hurrying back to the southwestern coast of Ireland where they catch up with the French ships and defeat them.

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The Short History of a Prince

Hamilton, Jane

Last Updated: Sep-30-1998
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Short History of a Prince is the story of Walter McCloud beginning in his teens and ending as he approaches forty, told alternately in Walter’s adolescent and adult voice. Weaned on Balanchine and Tchaikovsky by his eccentric, cultured aunt, the teenage Walter dances and dreams of playing the Prince in The Nutcracker. Supported by his loving family, including his older jock brother Daniel, Walter confronts the ambiguities of sexual identity as he becomes more aware of his conflicting feelings for his two best friends, Mitch and Susan (also dancers and far more talented).

Suddenly Walter’s pleasant, routinized family life is interrupted when his brother Daniel becomes ill, transforming his life, his parents’ life, and his friend Susan’s life when she becomes romantically involved with Daniel even with the knowledge of his terminal diagnosis. The following year is full of change surrounding Walter’s acknowledgment of his love for and subsequent involvement with his friend Mitch, and his ultimate response to Daniel’s dying. The adult Walter, a first-year English teacher near the McCloud summer home at Lake Margaret, Wisconsin (after a career at a doll house shop in New York City), is still trying to understand the meanings of family, love, desire, and friendship.

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The Thanatos Syndrome

Percy, Walker

Last Updated: Aug-24-1998
Annotated by:
Martinez, Richard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Dr. Tom More, from Love in the Ruins (see this database), now middle-aged, returns to Feliciana after spending two years in prison for selling prescriptions of Dalmane and Desoxyn at a truckstop. On his return to his psychiatric practice, More observes that two of his former patients are acting strangely. In his own words: "In each there has occurred a sloughing away of the old terrors, worries, rages, a shedding of guilt like last year's snakeskin, and in its place is a mild fond vacancy, a species of unfocused animal good spirits." (21)

More observes that his wife Ellen and his children have also undergone some mysterious personality change. More, the scientist-physician, with the help of his cousin Dr. Lucy Lipscomb, launches a search for the cause of these and other observations. More and Lucy discover that John Van Dorn, head of the computer division of the nearby Grand Mer nuclear power plant and Dr. Bob Comeaux, director of the Quality-of-Life Division of the Federal Complex overseeing euthanasia programs, are involved in social engineering, releasing Heavy Sodium into the water supply to "improve" the social welfare.

Throughout the novel, Dr. Tom More returns several times to evaluate and talk with Father Rinaldo Smith, a parish priest who has exiled himself to a firetower overlooking the vast pine forest of Feliciana. More has been asked by Comeaux, who sits on the probationary board overseeing More's return to practice, to declare Father Smith crazy, so that Comeaux can take over Father Smith's hospice and put it to better use. The conversations between More and Father Smith contain the philosophic and moral themes that support the plot and action of the novel.

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To the Lighthouse

Woolf, Virginia

Last Updated: Aug-21-1998
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Ramsay family are spending the summer in their holiday house on the Isle of Skye. Mr. Ramsay, a mathematician, and his wife, who runs the home, have eight children, including the beautiful Prue, who is likely to be married soon, and James, the youngest, still fiercely attached to his mother. There are also assorted guests, including Charles Tansley, one of Mr. Ramsay's students; Lily Briscoe, a keenly observant painter; and Mr. Carmichael, an opium-addicted poet.

James wants to be taken by boat to visit the lighthouse and his mother encourages him, but his father, enraging James, says it'll be impossible because of the weather. That night Mrs. Ramsay gives a dinner party where she orchestrates the complex dynamics of the family and their guests into a perfect social unit, which is presented as a kind of work of art.

This is followed by a short interlude, "Time Passes," which marks a shift in scale from the human to a wider view, where encroaching darkness and dissolution threaten the house and the lives connected to it. During this period, Mrs. Ramsay dies, Prue marries and then dies in childbirth, and a War takes place in which Andrew, another son, is killed.

All these events are diminished by the universal context of time and change against which Woolf places them. The final part of the novel returns to the human scale. About ten years later, the surviving characters are back at the house and Mrs. Ramsay, though dead, continues to be the central figure, motivating much of what occurs. Mr. Ramsay now takes the still-angry James to the lighthouse, and Lily Briscoe, inspired by her memory of Mrs. Ramsay, is at last able to complete the painting she began years before.

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Away

Urquhart, Jane

Last Updated: Aug-17-1998
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A strange Irish girl is "away" ever since she lay beside a drowned man. A teacher marries her, providing stability if not sanity, but the 1840s famines begin and the couple flee Ireland with their child Liam. They establish a homestead in a remote part of Ontario where a baby girl, Eileen, is born.

Not long after, the mother disappears and is not seen again for years until she is brought home dead. The son learns that she had been living by a lake immersed in her fantasies of the long dead lover. Eventually, Liam is left to care for his sister alone; they travel to a small port town where he realizes that Eileen has become an attractive young woman with desires of her own. She too goes "away" following a lover, but returns to Liam and his wife to live out her long and lonely life.

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Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A novel written in the first-person to what appears to be a trusted friend, Spending is the story of Monica Szabo, a painter who has struggled her entire career to be "moderately successful." Divorced and the mother of young adult daughters, Monica teaches to supplement the income from her paintings.

One evening after a gallery talk a man introduces himself as a collector of her paintings and offers himself to be her muse. This offer includes everything so many successful male artists have had that enabled them to produce "great" art: protected time to create, money, a room of their own. His offer also includes sex.

The novel, then, is the unfolding relationship between Monica and the man she ironically calls only "B," a relationship that includes her huge ambivalence about the tensions of their arrangement that often collide at the intersection of his money and the implicitly obligatory (yet quite pleasurable) sex. By the end of the story Monica is rich and famous through the sale of her series of Christs who were not dead (as portrayed on Renaissance canvases) but merely postorgasmic. B, in the meantime, loses his fortune and the roles are reversed.

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Stone Butch Blues

Feinberg, Leslie

Last Updated: Jul-03-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel tells the story of Jess Goldberg, a transgendered "butch" growing up in Buffalo, New York. Jess first learns to admit and negotiate her attraction to women and her butch identity. Immediately, she is faced with violence. The police raid the lesbian bars, arrest any woman wearing fewer than three articles of women’s clothing and routinely beat, strip, or rape them. Jess and her friends also face the violence of bashers who attack without cause on dark or well-lighted streets.

Nevertheless, Jess refuses to compromise. From a doctor, she gets a prescription for testosterone, goes to a gym and transforms herself into a bearded, muscular man. Having saved two thousand dollars, she has a mastectomy done. The doctor falsifies a biopsy, performs the surgery and makes her leave. By the end of the novel, Jess is secure in her identity and determines to fight to make the world safe for others like her.

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As Max Saw It

Begley, Louis

Last Updated: Jul-03-1998
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This beautifully crafted short novel chronicles a twenty year period, from the early 1970's to the early 1990's, in the life of a law professor, Max Strong, and the interesting highbrow characters who influence his life. Most notable among those characters are a college friend, now a world renowned architect, Charlie Swan, and Charlie's lover, Toby. The final sections of this novel offer a remarkable account of Toby's death from AIDS and Charlie's reaction to his death.

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The Promise of Rest

Price, Reynolds

Last Updated: Jul-03-1998
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The apparent "subject" of Reynolds Price's novel, The Promise of Rest, is HIV/AIDS, yet it is also a novel of family, marriage, father-son relationships, and friendship between men--in addition to one of caring, suffering, and the unspeakable pain of parents watching their child die. The novel opens with Wade Mayfield, a thirty-two year-old gay, white architect infected with AIDS reluctantly returning from New York City to his family home in North Carolina to live out his final months. Almost blind, unable to manage even with daily visits from caregivers, he allows his father Hutch to come to New York to close the apartment that he shared with his African-American lover, Wyatt, who infected Wade and committed suicide ten weeks prior to Wade's leaving.

Once home, the story becomes a long conversation between Wade and Hutch. Interspersed in that most loving, painful, sometimes joyful, intense conversation on the way to Wade's death is emotional haggling between Hutch and Ann, Wade's mother and Hutch's ex-wife, who feels denied a role in the care of her only child; the continuing conversation between Hutch and Straw, his best and oldest friend with whom he had a physically intimate relationship years before and with whom he is still strongly connected; the dailiness of students (Hutch is a literature professor); finding help with the caregiving; and trying to understand the story of Wade's life before he returned home that has potentially great bearing on the Mayfield family even after Wade's death. The novel closes with Wade's death and the days thereafter, a death that fulfilled Wade's "undaunted determination to die as himself."

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Second Son

Ferro, Robert

Last Updated: Jul-03-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Second Son chronicles the changes in family relationships that follow disclosure of a son's AIDS. The father's initial response reveals unexamined attitudes that complicate the supportive response he'd like to give. Father and son are brought into unfamiliar and unwelcome intimacy, the former wanting to "fight it," the latter wanting to turn inward, accept his condition and decide how to live out his life.

Father and son find that they handle sickness in much the same way they have handled the other aspects of their divergent lives. A new lover, who also has AIDS, finally provides what the family, tragically, cannot. The story highlights confusions about what family members owe one another and makes clear how the families of the sick need to be healed if they are to become healing communities.

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