Books by Raymond Kennedy

Released: Oct. 1, 2003

"A haunting tale from an established voice (The Bitterest Age, 1994, etc.)."
The distinctions between investigation, fixation, and obsession in a story of a young woman who becomes fascinated by another woman in early-20th-century New England. Read full book review >
THE BITTEREST AGE by Raymond Kennedy
Released: April 11, 1994

In his seventh novel, Kennedy (Columbine, 1980) tackles the highly charged subject of the lives of German citizenry near the end of World War II. Ten-year-old Ingeborg has moved with her mother and younger brother from Berlin to Potsdam in an effort to escape the bombings. Her father is a German soldier currently listed as missing in action. But Ingeborg assumes, with simple bright-child logic: ``If the letters that had been sent to her father had not reached where he was, that did not mean that he was not where he was. It meant only that the letters had not got to where he was.'' The more conditions around them deteriorate, the more tightly she clings to the prospect of her father's return. In lieu of her father, the flirtatious and sycophantic child takes various mentors, all comically unable to fulfill her needs. It's indeed a difficult task, made more so because Kennedy never seems to get Ingeborg's age right: she's precocious on one page, infantile on the next. More interesting than his characters are Kennedy's lush descriptions: scenes in cellars during air raids, accounts of searching for food, frantic illegal flight, and destroying any signs of Nazi loyalty just before the Russians arrive. Particularly memorable is a passage in which Ingeborg shoves a letter to her father, returned in the last regular mail delivery, into the church offertory box. Unfortunately, these evocative passages are ruined by Kennedy's past-tense rhetorical style, i.e., his insistence on pointing out what he's just described. The emotional content is thus watered down in a plot that can best be understood emotionally. Splendid secondhand descriptions are not enough to carry the thin storyline and simplistic ending. Read full book review >
RIDE A COCKHORSE by Raymond Kennedy
Released: May 29, 1991

A woman who curdles the blood but can't be begrudged credit for her audacity is the monster at the center of this outrageous and funny novel. Kennedy (Columbine, The Flower of the Republic, Lulu Incognito) has served up imperious women in sex-role reversals before, but he may be unlikely to top this one. Frankie Fitzgibbon is a hitherto mild-mannered home-loan officer when, at 45 and a widow, she flips. The new Frankie is sexually aggressive (wielding her breasts like stun guns) and a demon strategist and mesmerizing spieler whose ruthlessness would make Genghis Khan look like Gandhi. Her aim is to take over her bank and then take on the entire New England banking industry. Opponents tumble like tenpins, others are humbled into being willing slaves. She seduces a 17-year-old high-school drum major for her boy toy and becomes the goddess of a gay hairdresser, stereotypically named Bruce. Gay rights'—and for that matter, women's rights'— partisans may not be pleased. The ``Cockhorse'' in the title can take a Freudian reading. Frankie is always depicted as being utterly self-righteous, and even hurt at not being understood, no matter how low the blow she deals others. Her relentless monologues of self-justification get a little wearisome. Kennedy cannot entirely avoid monotony in a story so focused on a single monomaniac, although he tries by continually raising the hurdles his protagonist kicks over. Particularly comic are Frankie's relationship with her ecology-minded daughter, her opposite in every way, and with her proper little boss, who doesn't know what he's in for when he gives her head. A bravura, darkly comic performance by a novelist who matches his outsized heroine in effrontery. Read full book review >