Next book

THE EAGLE’S THRONE

A nerve-grating cautionary tale, and one of his best books.

First published in Spanish in 2002, the veteran Mexican author’s ebullient revival of the epistolary novel casts a frosty eye on future (and contemporary) geopolitics.

In the year 2020, lame-duck Mexican president Lorenzo Terán provokes the U.S. (and its chief executive, Condoleeza Rice) by formally protesting the presence of American troops in neighboring Colombia, and threatening to follow OPEC’s lead in setting prices for oil shipped north. Mexico’s conduit to the rest of the world—its satellite communication system (which is routed through Miami)—mysteriously goes down. The politically active find they’re able to communicate only by writing letters—and Fuentes’s richly comic premise begins to disclose a teeming little world of interconnected intrigues. Machiavellian beauty María del Rosario Galván schemes to place her handsome, sexually resourceful young “protégé,” Nicolás Valdivia, on “the eagle’s throne” (i.e., Mexico’s presidency, limited by law to a single six-year term). But Nicolás is a front, employed to pave the way for María’s longtime lover, Secretary of State Bernal Herrera. Meanwhile, a former president fidgets in retirement, hungry for a return to power. A yes-man opportunist is set up as a straw man whom Valdivia can easily topple. Truculent General Cícero Arrunza dreams of establishing an efficient military dictatorship. These and other machinations are seen in the contexts of Mexico’s embattled political history (recently scarred by the cruel fate visited on doomed naïf populist candidate Tomás Moctezuma Moro); skeletons hidden in numerous closets; and Nicolás’s inconvenient independence. The world outside spins on, blithely unconcerned (nonagenarian Fidel Castro still thrives in Cuba)—and a Downs Syndrome child, an embarrassment locked safely away from public view, speaks the novel’s poignant final words. Of course, the detailed (often redundant) exchanges of letters are anything but realistic. Still, in a gratifying return to form, Fuentes handles the hoary old convention with impressive finesse.

A nerve-grating cautionary tale, and one of his best books.

Pub Date: May 16, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-6247-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2006

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 37


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

Next book

A LITTLE LIFE

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 37


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Categories:
Next book

FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

Close Quickview