Intense and immediate as a late-night conversation between lovers, this should draw readers to the bestselling Gavalda.

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SOMEONE I LOVED

Gavalda (stories: I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere, 2004, etc.) offers up a minimalist first novel as compelling as it is slight.

Chloe, the mother of two young daughters, has just learned that her husband, Adrien, is leaving her for another woman. Over the protests of her mother-in-law, Suzanne, her heretofore remote father-in-law, Pierre, bundles the shaken Chloe and children into his car and drives them from Paris to his country house. Chloe is raw and desperate. It’s the first time she has been alone with her father-in-law, until now distant and undemonstrative. At the house, she still feels fragile, uncertain, suspended, but Pierre shops and cooks for her, serving her his finest wines. The two develop an unexpected intimacy, and the latter part of the story consists mostly of a dialogue between them. Chloe describes her pain, and he tells her about his own affairs, and about the moment when his wife confronted him but confessed she was too fond of the comforts his income brought to leave him. He tells her of Mathilde, the translator he met in Hong Kong and was involved with for years. He describes how he might have left Suzanne for Mathilde if it hadn’t been for his secretary, whose husband left her around that time, transforming a dependable employee into a distraught woman. He reveals to Chloe that watching his secretary suffer this betrayal convinced him that he should stick with his wife and family rather than cause a breakup. In retrospect, he has regrets. Clearly, he is vicariously aware that Chloe and Adrien are setting forth on the path he never had the courage to take. “I would rather see you suffer a lot today than suffer a little bit for the rest of your life,” he tells Chloe.

Intense and immediate as a late-night conversation between lovers, this should draw readers to the bestselling Gavalda.

Pub Date: April 28, 2005

ISBN: 1-594-48041-9

Page Count: 305

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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