A notable US debut from French writer Saumont: stories that record, without apparent emotion, the searing desolation of ordinary lives. In prose that echoes the terseness of a Samuel Beckett, Saumont tells of characters aware that their already difficult lives are unlikely to improve—``of unhappiness which happens without warning. For no reason.'' This stoical recognition gives them a harrowing intensity as they struggle to endure in an equally bleak landscape. A professional photographer in Vichy France realizes that the pictures he's taken of a class of schoolchildren, which includes a Jewish boy, and of the assassination of a German officer could lead inadvertently to the children's deaths in reprisal (``The Spelling Test''); a young boy who thinks he's a truck is successfully treated when his brother, who'd taken care of him, is killed in an accident, only to revert to his old behavior when his brother's girlfriend tries to seduce him (``I'm No Truck''); and a woman whose unemployed husband is away looking for work has an intense sexual encounter with a stranger (``Rainy April, Late Afternoon''). Other standouts include ``Maurice: His True Story,'' in which a young woman tells the story of her husband, who, haunted by a fear of his family's criminal tendencies, lectures their small son obsessively on the need ``to be honest''; ``The Altarpiece,'' in which a bitter young wife tells how a woman she befriended—an art historian—became responsible for the breakup of her marriage; and ``Try to Remember,'' in which a boy, saved from drowning, must cope with his grief-stricken, depressed mother, who accuses him of deliberately drowning his baby brother in the same incident. Little light and less joy, but the grim reality is handled with remarkable sympathy and craft. An impressive accomplishment.

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-7145-2949-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Marion Boyars

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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