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THE SWEETEST TABOO

Light as a breeze and about as memorable.

Hopeless girl gets swept off feet by wealthy movie producer, only to be tempted by cute but poor actor.

There are authors who can work comfortably inside the genre, giving fresh spin to the old, tired, chick-lit conventions. If only British writer Matthews (Bare Necessity, 2003, etc.) were one of them. Her London girl of the moment, Sadie Nelson, is at loose ends. Once a trader in the City, Sadie is now reduced to a lifestyle a few steps below going on the dole. Temping at a book convention, she meets Gil McCann, a Hollywood producer who just bought the rights to a hot new novel. He’s charming, devastatingly handsome, obviously loaded, and a genuinely nice guy. Having pretty much run out her string in London, Sadie doesn’t take long to accept his invitation to come see him in California, an invite that should be the gateway to a Pretty Woman life of riches and great sex. But roadblock after roadblock gets tossed in the mad new couple’s way, from Gil’s alcohol-sodden trainwreck of a soon-to-be-ex-wife to Tavis, the simply adorable actor who’s sadly pretty poor and quite possibly gay, but seems quite smitten with Sadie nonetheless. Gil and Sadie are realistically uncomfortable with each other, only having just met, of course, but just about every other element here is as artificial as Gil’s wife’s breasts. When Sadie’s not whining internally about her situation—even though within a matter of days, she’s got herself a decent job and apartment, not to mention Gil’s penchant for buying her expensive presents when yet another of their dates goes to pot—we’ve got Gil to deal with, who’s not only far too much of a human being to be a producer but talks like a girl. Matthews has a tin ear for all dialogue, but her inability to write a male character (or any character other than a young, white British woman) is especially pronounced.

Light as a breeze and about as memorable.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-059562-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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