A balanced exploration of the rules of marriage.

PLAYING AWAY

An affecting first novel successfully combines a cheeky first-person narrative with a serious look at the consequences of adultery.

Connie is as happy as she should be: A year into her marriage with Luke, the two have a charming London house, promising careers, and each other as best friends. As Connie puts it, she’s “in the middle of Happily Ever After” when she meets John Harding at a work seminar. Flattered by his accomplished flirting, and reminded of a time not so long ago when she could wrestle with the best of them, she nonetheless leaves the encounter with her marriage vows intact. When they meet again a few months later at a conference in Paris, however, the two begin an affair. The story’s winning attribute is its depiction of the relationships among Connie and her female friends, all strikingly different personalities, though all are horrified by Connie’s actions (except Lucy, who makes it a point to sleep only with married men). To justify her affair, Connie convinces herself that John may be her true destiny and Luke only a comfort. While she’s stealing afternoon hours away from work to have sex with John against alley walls, her cynical friend Lucy is falling in love (but with whose husband?), prim Daisy is getting engaged, and Rose is becoming increasingly unhappy in a marriage that consists more of changing diapers than exchanging loving glances. When John finally dumps Connie, she runs back to Luke’s innocent embrace—until the evening her drunken ex-lover sends explicit faxes to the house, and Luke moves out the same night. Can Connie get Luke back? More importantly, does she deserve to get him back? Despite the comic tone, and character analysis based primarily on detailed clothing description, newcomer Parks palpably conveys the anguish Connie experiences while still providing a relatively happy ending.

A balanced exploration of the rules of marriage.

Pub Date: July 11, 2000

ISBN: 0-671-77543-X

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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