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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more