A first novel striving for witty sophistication in the vein of Woody Allen, but falling far short of its mark.


Meandering jumble of clichés about a woman who prefers men of her father’s age.

Thirty-two-year-old Chicago ad-drone and former journalist Anna Schopenhauer, the whiny, self-centered daughter of Lithuanian Holocaust survivors, has just published her first short story in, of all places, The Atlantic Monthly. Called “Funny Accent,” the story—which either comprises the first chapter of the present novel or simply includes the same information—recounts Anna’s ten-year unconsummated affair with a family friend, Misha, also a survivor. Such a confession would—in the world of the novel—be scandalous enough, were it not for the fact that married Misha began romancing Anna when she was 13. Now, Anna must simultaneously come to grips with her past and figure out whether she has a future with either of the two older men in her life, both more stereotype than character: Gregory, the drunken goy playwright with whom Anna’s been involved for five years, and Sydney, a famous Jewish fiction-writer—Saul Bellow, seemingly—with a penchant for younger women (indeed, author of a novel entitled Younger Women). After much labored, pseudo-profound monologuing about love and sex (“ ‘I sometimes think my feelings for you are real the way they aren’t with anyone else’ ” ), Anna leaves Chicago for a visit with her parents (more monologuing), where she has the opportunity to take revenge on Misha for the harm he inflicted on her. It’s not quite clear why she seeks revenge, since she claims to have reciprocated Misha’s affections and to have been angry when he broke off their relationship. But then again, nothing is quite clear in this ragbag of a novel, which, albeit a small irritation, veers back and forth from first- to third-person seemingly without reason.

A first novel striving for witty sophistication in the vein of Woody Allen, but falling far short of its mark.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-27517-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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