Haunting and rewarding as an intimate family chronicle and journalistic take on the entertainment industry, based, we’re...



The rise and near fall of a young Italian-Scottish singing sensation—a fictional composite of Shirley Temple, Liza Minelli, and Brittany Spears, among others.

Maria Tambini grows up on the isolated Scottish Island of Bute, raised by her unmarried mother. In 1979, Maria is a typical 12-year-old who loves candy and is devoted to her best friend Kalpana, daughter of the local Indian doctor. But Maria’s incredible singing voice sets her apart. After her uncle Alfredo arranges for a talent scout to hear her sing, Maria is off to London to live with her new manager and appear as an undefeatable contestant on Opportunity Knocks, hosted by an aging song-and-dance man who recognizes Maria’s talent and warns her about its power. It’s hard to decide just how much even Maria herself hungers for celebrity once her ambitious manager divides her from her family and sets up an exhausting appearance schedule. While Maria is the central subject, for much of the story she remains a mystery seen primarily through the eyes of the various people in her life. Many of these come more vibrantly to life than Maria herself, in particular her mother and grandmother, whose tortured histories and failures shadow Maria. Scottish journalist and novelist O’Hagan (Our Fathers, 1999, etc.) strongly suggests that celebrity robs the individual of personality—as he shows in the sad, dwindling correspondence between Maria and Kalpana as Kalpana grows into an educated, well-rounded young woman and Maria’s life narrows the more famous she becomes. She makes no friends but is always ready to please her elders and her public. Gradually, the desire to please turns Maria into an anorexic/bulimic who’s hospitalized periodically for exhaustion. Stalked by a fan who, a bit heavy-handedly, represents Maria’s public, she eventually finds happiness with a man who knew and cared for her as a boy on Bute before she was a star.

Haunting and rewarding as an intimate family chronicle and journalistic take on the entertainment industry, based, we’re told, “on the life story of a famous singer.”

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-15-101000-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2003

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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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