The British columnist and memoirist (Dead Glamorous, 1997) cobbles together a kind of female, ’90s, Scottish-nihilist version of Catcher In the Rye featuring a fascist teenager who wanders London’s streets seeking out her true nature by shacking up with a fat old man, thinking mean thoughts about her mother, and pursuing the serial killer she loves. A big difference is that this heroine is stupid, racist, and unsympathetic—and the plot goes nowhere. Sophira van Ness is an unhappy 16-year-old: she hates her mother, who sold the family’s beloved mansion to its owner’s former maid; she hates filth, which she fights off with several showers a day and heavy doses of disinfectant; and she hates her life, stuck in Glasgow with no one to talk to but her imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, who she believes watches over her. Alienated from the human race since her brother’s death when they were children, Sophira apathetically accepts an invitation to share a bunk with a hanger-on at Balmoral Castle until they can cadge a ride to London. Unfortunately, Sophira hates London, too, with its filthy bathrooms and distasteful mix of races and social classes. Also, she has no money—but this problem is solved when Jack Grey, “schoolboy assassin aspiring actor and billionaire,” invites her to share his hotel room while he spends his night—apparently—murdering women. When Jack disappears for good, Sophira finds another sponsor in Count Saadi, a Jewish concentration camp survivor who’s producing a film about Hitler. The Count puts her up in his luxurious apartment, asking only for one chaste kiss a day, until Sophira realizes to her horror that she’s falling in love with him. Fleeing back to Glasgow, she learns that the maid who owned the mansion has died and the house has been sold again—to none other than Jack Grey, who, as star of a new film about Hitler’s life, now fully embodies Sophira’s ideal. Adolescent nastiness, pointless provocation, and empty attitude, whipped together into a muddy mix.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-87951-857-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998

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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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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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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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