Elegantly readable and sardonically perceptive: literary fiction that doesn’t put on airs.

TROPHY HOUSE

A tart social novel from veteran Bernays (Professor Romeo, 1989, etc.).

On the Wednesday after Labor Day of 2002, children’s-book illustrator Dannie Faber is gossiping with best friend Raymie, who runs a B&B in Provincetown, about the rude rich people overrunning Cape Cod. The one who jumped the line at a popular local restaurant by bribing the waiter turns out to be the same hotel gazillionaire who’s built a huge, vulgar trophy house down the beach from Dannie in Truro. It’s the one-year anniversary of September 11, an event that quietly haunts Dannie; she’s also slightly concerned about the slow asphyxiation of her marriage to MIT professor Tom Faber and about the arrival of daughter Beth, dumped by a live-in boyfriend. Dannie tries to be supportive, but she never thought much of egotistical Andy, and she wishes 29-year-old Beth would grow up and quit being so needy. Though we view the action through Dannie’s eyes, readers come to realize that this workaholic, emotionally skittish and often judgmental woman does not always accurately convey what’s going on. Bernays depicts with extra-dry humor the Faber marriage, which has long since exhausted its reasons for being, and Raymie’s surprise hookup with the crass trophy-house owner, Mitchell Brenner, who proves to be not (quite) as awful as he first seemed. Sharp-tongued Dannie might grow annoying as a narrator if she weren’t so smart and frequently so funny about social and sexual tensions on the Cape, in academia and in a middle-aged affair. New York publisher David is sexy, adoring and practically perfect—but Dannie manages to find a few things wrong with him anyway. By the end of the story, she’s pushed him into the same kind of part-time relationship she had with her now-ex-husband. It becomes clear that Dannie loves Truro and her solitary creative life at least as much as she does her family and friends.

Elegantly readable and sardonically perceptive: literary fiction that doesn’t put on airs.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-7055-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2005

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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