THE WOMAN OF THE HOUSE

A nostalgic tale of Ireland in the 1950s, by the popular novelist whose previous labors in this vineyard (Country Days, 1995, etc.) have established her as a master of the genre. The current mania for all things Irish has been responsible, happily, for providing a ready, new audience for the honorable Celtic tradition of the family saga. Here we are introduced to the Phelans, who have worked their plot of land in County Cork for as long as anyone can remember—which in Ireland is a very long time indeed. Ned Phelan runs the farm, having inherited it from his drunken father Billy, and he has managed to make something of the place after working long years to overcome his father’s decades of neglect. Ned’s wife Martha is a trifle conceited, but their marriage is fairly happy—and life goes well for them and their children, Nora and Peter, until Ned is killed in a riding accident. After that, Martha falls apart, sliding into depression, and Ned’s sister Kate Phelan steps in and tries to put Martha back on her feet. Kate, a trained nurse and teacher, dreams of opening a school for the children of the village, but the parish priest, fearful of secular education, stands in her way. She must also deal with her neighbors, the Conways, who have been feuding with the Phelans for generations and now want to take advantage of Ned’s death to seize the Phelan lands. In her struggle to save the farm and open her school, Kate simply wants to preserve the best of Ireland’s past while opening it to the future. Will she succeed? Sentimental and melodramatic to the max. If you get teary-eyed reading about turf fires and pony traps, this is the book for you.

Pub Date: March 17, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-20065-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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