Showing 481 - 490 of 566 annotations in the genre "Novel"

A Widow for One Year

Irving, John

Last Updated: Jun-25-1998
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A family's tragic event--the death of two teenage boys in a car accident--is both the stimulus for a mother's abandonment of her husband and daughter and an ongoing thread weaving its way throughout the rest of this immense story (537 pages) told in three major parts.

Part 1 (1958) is the story of Marion and Ted Cole and their four-year-old daughter Ruth. Struggling to keep afloat in her grief-filled life, Marion is a beautiful, 39-year-old woman who, with her husband Ted, a hugely successful children's author/illustrator, lives an elegant life on Long Island. The focus of Part 1 is Marion's affair with Eddie, a 17-year-old hired by Ted to be his personal assistant but who turns out to be part babysitter to Ruth, and "companion" to Marion. This part of the story is sexy and comic, even as it is full of relentless grief.

Part 2 (1990) finds Ruth as a hugely successful novelist in her thirties. Her life is one long unending string of "bad" boyfriends, and one long question regarding how her mother could abandon her and why she fails to reappear. While in Amsterdam on a book tour, she comes up with the idea for a new book that takes her to the storefront prostitution district of the city, where her authorial curiosity and adventure is met with violence. In this section of the book she marries her agent, has a baby, and seems to be finding contentment for the first time in her life.

Part 3 (1995) occurs four years later, when Ruth as a 41-year-old widow and mother, falls in love. The story comes together finally with the reappearance of Marion Cole, now in her seventies and herself a moderately successful author who had been living quietly alone in Canada.

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Stones from the River

Hegi, Ursula

Last Updated: Apr-29-1998
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Trudi Montag is a Zwerg, a dwarf. Born to a mentally disturbed woman who dies when Trudi is a small child, the girl reaches adulthood under the loving care of her father, a pay-librarian in a small German town. (A pay-librarian is one who runs a library as a business and charges the patrons to borrow books.) Trudi is angry, deeply resentful of her "differentness," and she uses her unique status in a variety of ways, both helpful and vengeful toward others.

For example, Trudi tells stories, some of which enchant and comfort frightened children during the war, others of which harm the lives and personal security of the townsfolk whom the story teller doesn't like. World War II comes and goes in Burgdorf; Trudi finds and loses romantic love; her father dies; and she begins, at the end of the tale, to reflect on the ways in which she has contributed to her own suffering and that of others.

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Range of Motion

Berg, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Apr-16-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Lainey's husband, Jay, has been in a coma for weeks, now extending into months. She takes care of their daughters, visits him daily, finds what solace is possible with her resilient, tough-minded, and compassionate neighbor, Alice, and continues to believe he will wake up when the medical staff have largely given up hope.

As she sits with him, trying to adjust and foster her hopes, bringing familiar smells, textures, and sounds from home in the hope of triggering response, she imagines his state of mind. Interludes that work a little like prose poems suggest something of the liminal state he may inhabit. Lainey meets a fellow visitor at the nursing home whose wife dies after having been comatose for 6 months.

Lainey's life is kept from complete inward focus by Alice's efforts to keep her going out, and by Alice's own problems which include a straying husband who finally reveals that he's been struggling with homosexuality and has fallen in love with another man. Jay finally awakens and life returns to something like normal, but with an abiding awareness of the mystery of consciousness and memory, and a heightened sense of the preciousness of consciousness, choice, and the ordinariness of daily life.

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Cold Mountain

Frazier, Charles

Last Updated: Mar-26-1998
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel chronicles the long journey home of a Civil War soldier, Inman, to Cold Mountain in North Carolina. The story begins in a military hospital, and Inman's neck wound, a long difficult-to-heal horizontal slice received in battle, is drawing flies. Inman is a moral man, and the brutality and killing he has witnessed on the battlefield lead him to leave the hospital AWOL and journey secretively, by foot, back to Ada, his love.

The trip is perilous; Inman is subject not only to the difficulties of near starvation and a poorly healing wound, but also the cruelties of people he meets along the way. However, every so often, he is also succored by compassionate people, such as the goat woman who provides the cure for his neck wound, if not for the wounds inside. Intertwined with Inman's story is Ada's: her preacher father dies of tuberculosis, leaving her utterly unable to provide for her own basic needs on the farm. Fortunately, a self-reliant young woman, Ruby, joins Ada on the farm, and helps transform both the farm and Ada.

The book details the ways of nourishment: physical (precise descriptions of food, its paucity and preparation) and nonphysical (themes of love, generosity, intellectual curiosity, and spiritual questing underpin the book). Cold Mountain itself provides both types of nourishment by offering hope, goals, shelter, food and a place where love and forgiveness are possible despite the savagery of man.

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Black and Blue

Quindlen, Anna

Last Updated: Mar-26-1998
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Black and Blue is a novel portraying the new life of Beth Crenshaw, formerly Fran Benedetto, after her escape with her son Robert from a passionate marriage that had turned into an abusive nightmare. It chronicles how she left, why she stayed, and what she gave up--materially, professionally, emotionally--in her attempt to find a safe new life.

The book, written in the first person, includes many flashbacks as she chronicles the early signs of her husband Bobby’s rage that turned on her, her successful attempts at denial, the years of hiding her secret, her attempts at protecting her son from the knowledge of his father’s malevolence, and the final destructive act that gave her the courage to leave. Winding her way from New York to Florida, covering her tracks, helped by an underground network of women committed to saving battered women’s lives, Beth attempts to start over, always with the background noise of her history and ubiquitous fear of her husband’s appearance.

He does, of course, eventually show up at her home--Robert misses his father and phones him--and after beating her one last time, takes Robert with him. At the story’s end, we find Beth in a new marriage with a new daughter Grace, but her life is forever marred: "There’s not a day when I haven’t wondered whether I did the right thing, leaving Bobby. But of course if I hadn’t, there would have been no . . . Grace Ann. Your children make it impossible to regret your past. They’re its finest fruits. Sometimes its only ones."

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The Road to Wellville

Boyle, T. Coraghessan

Last Updated: Mar-08-1998
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the fall of 1907, Will and Eleanor Lightbody, a wealthy, neurotic couple from Peterskill, New York travel to Battle Creek, Michigan to immerse themselves in the routine of the famous sanitarium run by corn-flake inventor, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. They meet Charlie Ossining who is seeking his fortune in the fickle market of Battle Creek's breakfast food industry. The Lightbodys have just lost their infant daughter and Eleanor is taking Will to the "san" for the cure. An inveterate meat-eater with a sexual appetite, Will was addicted, first to alcohol, and then, to opium, after his wife spiked his coffee with an off-the-shelf-remedy for drink.

At the sanitarium, they must occupy separate rooms, refrain from sex, and piously eat inflexible non-meat diets. Therapies include five daily enemas, exercises, "radiated" water, and an electrical "sinusoidal bath," which accidentally fries one of the residents. Kellogg is gravely disappointed in Will's inability to toe the "physiologic" line, but he is more deeply disturbed by his adopted son, George, whose chosen life on the street is a perpetual embarrassment.

Worried about his sexual prowess and deprived of his wife, Will becomes obsessed with his beautiful nurse and opts for the stimulation of an electrical belt; equally frustrated and bent on self-starvation, his wife turns to the quack "Dr Spitzvogel" who specializes in nudism and "manipulation of the womb." Brought to their senses by humiliation, Will and Eleanor go home.

Meanwhile, Charlie has joined with George Kellogg and borrowed from Will to keep his business afloat, but he realizes that he has been swindled. He only narrowly escapes jail, during a fiery commotion created by George who is then murdered by his adoptive father.

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The Cider House Rules: A Novel

Irving, John

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Terry, James

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This long (598 page) novel manages to portray serious moral questions while spinning an entertaining tale with complex characters and plenty of humorous touches. Wilbur Larch is the young physician who chooses to offer women either "an orphan or an abortion" in early 20th century rural Maine. Homer Wells is an orphan who just cannot stay permanently placed in a home and who gradually grows up as Larch's surrogate son and apprentice. Just as Homer realizes that he opposes abortion on principle, he is swept off to a coastal apple orchard. There, additional moral rules are called into question, particularly in a very nontraditional set of family and sexual arrangements.

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A Thousand Acres

Smiley, Jane

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Smiley's novel, King Lear (see King Lear in this database) with a shocking twist, portrays the enduring violence of incest to body and spirit. The narrative voice describes her family--a wealthy farmer and his three daughters. Family relationships are explored, especially the hidden roots that shape and define behaviors and conflicts, some lasting a lifetime.

The disclosure of a horribly dark secret explains the personalities of the three daughters and, for two, their metaphoric afflictions (infertility and breast cancer). Smiley's novel is layered with rich complexities, but none more powerful and astonishing than the core event, the sexual victimization of two vulnerable teenage girls who, as the story unfolds, are permanently scarred. Through a reinterpretation of Lear, Smiley demonstrates the cost of this hideous form of male domination and female victimization.

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The Idiot

Dostoevski, Fyodor Mikhailovich

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Prince Myshkin is an epileptic returning from a sanitarium. On the train, he meets Rogozhin and they become friends. Myshkin visits his distant relatives, the Epanchins, a fashionable family. General Epanchin gives him a job and he fascinates Madame Epanchin and her daughter, Aglaya, with his innocence and awkwardness.

The Prince boards with Ganya, a schemer who wants to marry Aglaya for her money. Ganya is also involved with Natasya; though innocent, she is a kept woman. Myshkin pities Natasya; in their innocence they are two of a kind. He offers to marry her, but as she is worried about ruining his name, she runs off with Rogozhin. Shortly afterward, she runs away from Rogozhin and disappears. Rogozhin assumes she has run to Myshkin and with Ganya plots the Prince's death.

Meanwhile, Aglaya has fallen in love with Myshkin, but his bizarre talk disturbs the family and when he falls into a fit at a party they ban him from the house. Aglaya also grows increasingly jealous of Natasya. The two women meet and Aglaya resolves to give up the Prince. At last, Natasya agrees to marry Myshkin but on their wedding day, she elopes with Rogozhin, who murders her. Myshkin returns to the sanitarium.

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Nana

Zola, Emile

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

As the book opens, Fauchery, a drama critic, is waiting for the hottest play in Paris to open. "The Blonde Venus" has bad music and bad actresses, but a new star, Nana, who appears on stage clad only in a diaphanous wrap brings down the house anyway. Nana is an experienced concubine. She exploits the hysteria caused by her nearly nude performance to win Steiner, a wealthy banker. Steiner buys her a country house where she entertains other lovers to win more gifts. Here she also has a brief affair with the penniless student George.

Steiner soon sets her loose and she takes up with Fontan, an actor. She tries to be domestic and kind, but Fontan beats her, then abandons her and she turns to streetwalking. Threatened by the police, who in order to prevent the spread of syphilis can imprison women and perform mandatory gynecological exams, she quickly searches for a new, wealthy lover. She finds Muffat whom she humiliates, trampling on his uniform and sleeping with whomever she likes. One day, Muffat finds her in the arms of young George and then with his elderly father-in-law. Nana also brings home Stain, a streetwalker, to be her lover and confidant.

Young George finally grows so jealous of Muffat and of his brother, another of Nana's conquests, he kills himself in her bedroom. Her other lovers must step over the bloodstain to approach Nana's bed. Soon after, Nana catches smallpox and dies miserably, the disease ravaging her beauty. She dies in 1870 just as the Franco-Prussian War begins.

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