The promising premise bogs down too often in repetition and excess verbiage.

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JULIET

In Fortier's debut, the rights to which have been sold in 29 territories around the world, a descendant of Juliet goes to Italy to search for her Romeo.

As children, twin sisters Giulietta and Giannozza were sent from Italy to live with their great aunt Rose in Virginia after their parents perished in an auto crash. The children were raised as Julie and Janice Jacobs by Rose and her flamboyant butler Umberto. Now Aunt Rose has died. According to her will, Janice inherits Aunt Rose’s entire estate. Giulietta inherits a key to a safe-deposit box in Siena, Italy, accompanied by a letter from her aunt explaining that her mother left a treasure for her which relates to her true identity: Giulietta Tolomei, whose family tree goes all the way back to the original Giulietta and her twin sister Giannozza. The Tolomeis and the Salimbenis were the actual feuding families, from Siena, on whom Shakespeare based the Capulets and Montagues. Once in Siena, Giulietta discovers that the rivalry is still roiling. Alessandro Salimbeni, the handsome policeman who helps her explore her past, is descended from the evil 14th-century nobleman who forced Juliet to marry him after he arranged not only for the murder of her entire family but also for her fiancé Romeo’s assassination. Romeo was the scion of the Marescotti clan, a military family often embroiled in the Tolomei/Salimbeni wars. Alternating with the present-day story are chapters set in 1340, presenting a far gorier retelling of Romeo and Juliet’s doomed love than Shakespeare imagined. And what of Romeo’s present-day counterpart? As Giulietta grows closer to Alessandro, after he deters a thug who has been tailing her, she’s on the point of deconstructing the family curse, when Janice shows up, claiming that Aunt Rose’s will was a scam serving some nefarious Salimbeni plot. The same dark forces were behind the deaths of their parents, which may have been no accident. And who is Umberto, really?

The promising premise bogs down too often in repetition and excess verbiage.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-345-51610-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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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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