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LUCIA, LUCIA

Silly but romantic stuff, written in a state of never-ending swoon.

More like a big, sloppy wet kiss to Greenwich Village than anything as mundane and unromantic as a novel: Trigiani’s fourth (after Milk Glass Moon, 2002, etc.) starts off in extremely unpromising territory but thankfully doesn’t stick with it for long.

Narrator Kit is a flighty writer of universally rejected plays and an occasional journalist who lives in the Village and is given to mundane reflections on just how wonderful her neighborhood is. Fortunately, she doesn’t have much of a life, so when her neighbor—a charming, gracious old lady everyone calls Aunt Lu—invites her in for some tea and ends up telling Kit the story of her life, Kit has no good reason to say no. In the early 1950s, Lucia Sartori lived with her large Italian family in the Village, where her father and brother ran the beloved Groceria food market. Lucia herself, still in her 20s and considered the neighborhood beauty, worked in the custom clothing section in the grand B.Altman’s department store on Fifth Avenue and was engaged to the most promising bachelor around, Dante DeMartino. Spunky Lucia, though, breaks the engagement when she discovers that the DeMartinos expect her to leave work and live with them as a cleaning, cooking, baby-producing housewife. It isn’t long before Lucia gets snapped up by John Talbot, a rakishly handsome man-about-town who’s vaguely employed in the importing business (alarm bells clang in everyone’s head, except for that of the normally bright Lucia). Trigiani is mostly interested in Lucia’s relationships with her coworkers and family, only intermittently cutting back to her blossoming romance with John. But she knows how to deliver on basic desires: her story is filled-to-bursting with gorgeous clothes, sumptuous meals, beautiful weather, and the rhapsody of New York City. Where it runs into problems is with its humans: solidly depicted but never quite lifelike.

Silly but romantic stuff, written in a state of never-ending swoon.

Pub Date: July 8, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-6005-2

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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