Maxted’s people are endearing, and she has a flair for comic turns of phrase, but a meandering story dampens the fun.



Despite a wonderfully cheeky first-person narration, this second novel from British author Maxted (Getting Over It, 2000) occasionally gets lost in its own plot.

Natalie is terminally good. Not the dreary kind, just the tidy, polite, always-pleasing-others sort of good. Up until now, it’s served her well. Though she’s bullied by her golden big brother Tony, harangued by her well-meaning mother, and stuck in a proper relationship with an accountant, life moves on amiably enough until her best friend, Babs, gets married. Natalie feels as if she’s been dumped, and a downward spiral ensues. She begins dating Chris, the manager of a really awful rock band, who introduces her to the world of drugs and bad manners; she loses her p.r. job at a London ballet company; she becomes so thin that her hair begins to fall out. That’s when Babs confronts Natalie with her suspicions that she’s become anorexic. It comes as a shock to both Natalie and the reader, over a hundred pages into the story, that mental illness may be the cause of her dramatic transformation. But it wasn’t only working with prima ballerinas that gave Natalie a warped self-image, it was also a lifetime of acquiescing to everyone’s wishes, of always being the good girl. With the help of Alex, a Pilates instructor, Natalie attempts to find inner peace (though she dreads these New Age notions) and slowly becomes more assertive. She gives her nosey Mum a talking to; she reveals Tony’s shameful secret, bringing him down a rung or two on the family ladder; she ditches Chris, and finally begins to eat more than dry toast and coffee. Unfortunately, her efforts go sour through a series of misunderstandings that even threaten a promising relationship with Babs’s kind brother Andy.

Maxted’s people are endearing, and she has a flair for comic turns of phrase, but a meandering story dampens the fun.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-039321-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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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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