Pérez-Reverte summons the romantic spirit of an old black-and-white movie: impossibly glamorous, undeniably wistful.

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WHAT WE BECOME

Prolific master Pérez-Reverte (The Siege, 2014, etc.) returns with a novel of fate, love, and deception that spans four decades as two beautiful misfits struggle to make a real human connection despite the violent politics of the Spanish Civil War and then the Cold War.

Max Costa grows up in the slums of Buenos Aires to become the consummate con man: suave, handsome, and quick-fingered. While working as a ballroom dancer on a luxury ocean liner in 1928, he encounters Mecha, sparking a short but passionate affair. But Mecha is married to a famous Spanish composer with eclectic sexual tastes, and when the composer insists that Max escort the couple into the Argentinian underworld so that he might find gritty inspiration to write a “perfect tango,” the night that follows puts Max on the run. Ten years later, now a successful thief, Max is recruited as a spy by two Italian agents, and while infiltrating a high-society party, he once again runs into Mecha. Passion reignites, but once again Max must leave precipitously. Both these stories unfold in pieces, intercut with a third encounter between Max and Mecha in 1966 as Mecha’s son competes against a Russian for a chance to play in the world chess championship. In typical Pérez-Reverte fashion, the novel’s strength is in its details and its lush descriptions of exotic places and luxurious parties that contrast with political violence. This novel is also driven by the deeply flawed humanity of its two main characters: their desire and their inability to trust anyone, even each other, despite their strong connection. The sense of regret that imbues the 1966 storyline elevates the novel to a meditation on the ravages inflicted on the body and spirit by time and history.

Pérez-Reverte summons the romantic spirit of an old black-and-white movie: impossibly glamorous, undeniably wistful.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5198-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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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