Psychologically disturbing and aesthetically moving.

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THE NATURAL DISORDER OF THINGS

A haunting, gorgeously evocative and harrowingly intense chronicle of a man obsessed—the Italian author’s first to be published in the U.S.

Claudio Fratta, a high-end garden-designer in his mid-30s, has prematurely gone to seed. His father’s downfall, the allure of a mystery woman and the ache he feels from his brother’s tragic death all hold him in a white-knuckled grip. Women no longer notice him, but he pays rapt attention to everything; his eye is omnivorous. Canobbio sets Fratta on a dark journey that begins ominously. In route to a client’s mansion, Claudio loses control of his Renault, crunching a dog beneath its tires. Shuddering, he recalls a shock five months before: the sight of a man mowed down in a hit-and-run. Shortly thereafter, Claudio had followed the taillights of a speeding car, only to watch it crash into a ditch, a gorgeous woman at the wheel. He’d rescued and forgotten her—except for a hallucinatory image of his “head sunk between her thighs.” Flash-forward to the present and he’s meeting her again: the wife of his new client, an old-school country gentleman confined to a wheelchair. His pursuit of her is only one taut thread in this existential thriller. There’s also Claudio’s revenge fantasies about the loan shark who wrecked his father’s business, and his desperate love for his family—Carlo, his leftist brother whose one attempt to make money was a failed website about ’70s terrorism, Carlo’s beautiful children and the clan’s black sheep, Fabio. Its plot reminiscent of Raymond Chandler, its style recalling the lapidary prose of Sicilian titan Lampedusa, this deep, moody novel succeeds in depicting a mind in crisis.

Psychologically disturbing and aesthetically moving.

Pub Date: July 11, 2006

ISBN: 0-374-21961-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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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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