MERCURY

Posthumous novel from an English writer noted for the influence of drug-taking on her work (Sleep Has His House, 1980, etc.), an extended dream-turned-nightmare detailing obsessive relationships. Protagonist Luke takes comfort only from the memory of once hearing a dawn chorus of singing lemurs in the heart of a tropical jungle: ``an amazing sound, melodious and of limpid purity''—a purity that makes his subsequent disintegration even more intolerable. If the lemurs' voices are the songs of Apollo, the events that follow are the harsh words of Mercury, the god whose presence also haunts the story. On vacation, the convalescing Luke meets the extraordinarily beautiful Luz and her domineering mother. He is attracted to Luz, but never thinks about marriage and even derives a ``certain unacknowledged satisfaction'' from his beloved's enslavement by her mother. But when handsome painter Chas. arrives and successfully woos Luz, Luke is devastated. Luz and Chas. marry, but he soon begins to abuse her physically—as Luz notes towards the end, ``the anguish she feels is part of a recurring pattern of her life, of her victim's fate.'' Luke, taking hallucinogenic medications for his various ailments, and concerned for Luz's well-being, pursues her and Chas. across nameless continents and seas, but as his hallucinations become more terrible and unreal—he once sees a dragon devour Luz—he recognizes his own latent sadism. Ill and exhausted, he returns to the lemurs, realizing that he had never seen Luz ``as she really was, but only in the role he had imposed upon her...a lamb led to the slaughter.'' He catches up with her at last, and the two cling together like ``the terrified children'' they indeed are. Exquisite, lapidary prose brilliantly illuminates the eerie land that lurks deep within the mind, waiting to surprise and torment.

Pub Date: April 5, 1995

ISBN: 0-7206-0940-2

Page Count: 136

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1995

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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