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.


This novel won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.



Place Published

New York



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