DREAM CHILDREN

At a time when child sex abuse elicits myriad accusations, mea culpas, and endless shelves of prefab fiction, the prolific Wilson (Jesus, A Life, 1992; The Vicar of Sorrows, 1994; etc., etc.) offers a respectable, genuine, intellectual portrait of a pedophile that also makes for a gripper indeed. When philosopher and ex-university don Oliver Gold, 43, moves into an attic room in the London house of widowed Janet Gold, it’s thought by all that his reason for going from teaching to the attic is to concentrate on his long-expected magnum opus. His real reason for moving in, though, is no such thing, but instead it’s the appeal of being near his deepest love-object, Janet’s three-year-old granddaughter Bobs (from Roberta). When the main action opens, seven years have passed, and not only does nary a soul in the house think of Oliver as a pervert, but each is in love with him—not only Bobs, who finds him the greatest pal she’s ever had, but also the 60ish Janet herself, for whom Oliver provides the literary and artsy cachet that had almost disappeared with the death of her editor-husband; Janet’s divorced daughter (and mother of Bobs) Michal; and Michal’s beautiful lover (and ex- student of Oliver’s) Catharine Cuffe. When news comes—like a bolt from the blue—that Oliver is to marry an American and leave the attic forever, things shift into high gear as everybody tries to figure out why. Matters—often grimly, even wonderfully, comic, such is Wilson’s sleight-of-hand—will go from bad to worse, then far worse still, as each of the women (and Bobs, too) tries to serve and save her own interests, as does also the hyperintellectual, deeply serious, but child- and sex-tormented Oliver, who in spite of all (and —all— includes plenty) remains believably human, thanks to the estimably gifted Wilson. A —topic— novel that surpasses its genre and goes to the dreadful—but this time authentic—heart of the matter.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-393-02740-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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