Like these lovable antiheroes of the past, von Igelfeld remains a gentle figure who deserves every cartoon anvil that falls...


First in the three cycles of stories introducing quietly hapless Prof. Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, of the Institute of Romance Philology.

“All I want is love,” dolefully reflects the author of that standard but slow-selling reference work, Portuguese Irregular Verbs, “and a tiny bit of recognition from the Portuguese.” What he gets instead is a series of eight little adventures that add up to a life of quiet desperation. Sidelined from his original interest in Early Irish by his landlady’s horror at discovering a German translation of the off-color remarks a surviving speaker of Early Irish shared with him, he settles into a chair at Regensburg. Although he ventures as far afield as Italy and India, von Igelfeld remains as predictable in his habits and as impervious to the outside world as Kant. Supported by his colleagues, the unfortunately named Prof. Dr. Detlev Amadeus Unterholzer and Prof. Dr. Dr. (honoris causa) Florianus Prinzel, who looks like an athlete but isn’t, he plays tennis after spending an hour with a rulebook, recalls a foreshortened duel that ended with a foreshortened nose, attempts to disprove a xenophobic Sienese landlady’s claims that Germans eat too much, falls in love with his dentist, and turns himself radioactive. Trudging stoutly from one academic conference to the next, von Igelfeld recalls the great 19th-century comedies of minutiae inflated to monstrous proportions, though he’s less majestic than Mr. Pickwick and less fiercely stupid than Bouvard and Pécuchet. Perhaps the closest analogy is Mr. Pooter, the office drudge of George and Weedon Grossmith’s Diary of a Nobody, whose indulgently satiric tone Smith faithfully reproduces.

Like these lovable antiheroes of the past, von Igelfeld remains a gentle figure who deserves every cartoon anvil that falls on his head but retains his dignity and goodness throughout. (Illus. throughout with b&w block prints)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-7708-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2004

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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