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ROCOCO

Reams of furnishings detail and messy family histrionics.

Kitschy, quaintly amusing Italian-American saga from Trigiani (Lucia, Lucia, 2003, etc.).

The endearing narrator is Batholomeo di Crespi, known as “B,” a bachelor decorator in the upscale New Jersey town of Our Lady of Fatima (or OLOF), circa 1970. His exquisite taste in fabrics and décor have made B well respected in OLOF; he’s decorated all the important houses, from his divorced older sister’s Georgian manor to Aurelia Mandelbaum’s mansion. Aurelia’s myopic daughter Capri, still living at home at age 40, has been B’s unofficial fiancée for 20 years, but this was their mothers’ idea, not theirs. B avoids the messiness of romantic relationships, preferring to spend his time making the world elegant: “The rococo period where French design and Italian flair came together make my heart leap for joy.” At the moment, he’s got his eye trained nostalgically on the restoration of the town’s Catholic church. Once he wrests the commission away from a fancy New York firm, B is faced with the scary task of having to turn his vision into reality. Conveniently, he meets a fancy Park Avenue architect and historian, Eydie Von Gunne, who specializes in churches and can recommend expert craftsmen. But first, B soothes his artistic crisis with a trip to England, where he buys Monica Vitti’s chandelier, and then to Italy with Capri, who decides to live a little in spite of him. B embarks on the church restoration with the help of Brooklyn’s noted fresco painter Rufus McSherry, who urges him to be daring rather than conventional. Resourceful B even saves the day by raising the last-minute money for the church’s final stage. Trigiani’s story manages to transcend its fluffiness by virtue of her unique and winning protagonist, the determinedly single B, who loves his family but resists the pressure to make one of his own.

Reams of furnishings detail and messy family histrionics.

Pub Date: June 28, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-6007-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2005

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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 RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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