A persuasive glimpse of the world of early-1970s publishing and journalism, but it lacks much of a message to deliver about...



A middle-aged literary lion heads to Vietnam to revive his respectability as a writer and husband.

It’s 1973, and Alan Eastman, the hero of Gilvarry’s second novel (From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, 2012), has come to recognize that his reputation is fading. Though he’s remained in the public eye as a reporter, essayist, and pugnacious critic of women’s rights and American foreign policy, his Pulitzer-finalist magnum opus on World War II is two decades behind him. And on the home front, his second wife, Penny, has just left him, prompting him to engage in unseemly stalker-ish behavior. Desperate for some emotional breathing room and a peg for a new book, he takes an offer to head to Vietnam and report on the United States’ incipient extraction from the war there. But his enthusiasm for combat reporting is behind him; he’s more comfortable staying in his Saigon hotel, where he mansplains journalism to a female colleague who’s more industrious than he is and attempts to rekindle a relationship with an old flame. Gilvarry is plainly unsympathetic to Alan’s self-inflicted plights; his preening recalls Norman Mailer during his most macho know-it-all moments. (A rival’s wife gives Alan what-for when he dismisses women writers: “To you they are all girls, aren’t they? Waiting for a man like yourself, a pig of a man.”) But because Gilvarry is inclined neither to lionize nor openly satirize his protagonist, the novel has a flat affect, delivering a straightforward brand of realism that puts Alan’s misogyny and sense of entitlement in the context of their time but does less to dive deep into their psychological roots or their consequences. There are signs of comeuppance in the closing pages, but of a wan sort, and Alan is a hard man to root for throughout, even in a hate-read sort of way.

A persuasive glimpse of the world of early-1970s publishing and journalism, but it lacks much of a message to deliver about it.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-98150-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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