Slender, often farcical events are significantly enhanced by astute, affectionately mocking prose and a wicked but merciful...



A witty assassination of North London Jewish matriarchy by an award-winning British novelist.

Rabbi Claudia Rubin is glamorous, brilliant and successful: “Everyone wants to join New Belsize Liberal, where famous authors come to Chanukkah parties.” Her watchword is family, and her own children are “attentive, affectionate, as close as a family can be.” However, as Mendelson’s mordantly comic novel (after Daughters of Jerusalem, 2003, etc.) opens, the entire Rubin edifice, built on secrets and assumptions, is about to crumble. Lawyer son Leo ducks his own wedding to abscond with Helen, the wife of another rabbi. Literary agent Frances, a failed mother and disappointed wife, is on the verge of a breakdown. Son Simeon may be both a sex and drug addict, and pretty Emily has started an affair with Jay, who looks like a very attractive boy but isn’t. Claudia’s husband Norman has concealed the fact that his latest obscure biography is likely to be a literary sensation that will eclipse her new book, a combination of memoir and handbook on the subject of family, the success of which is essential for financial reasons as well as Claudia’s self-esteem. So the family façade must be preserved at all costs. However, Frances has begun to lust after Jay, Norman is involved with another woman and Leo finds he cannot give Helen up. Matters come to a head at the Passover Seder, which also celebrates Helen’s publication but sees Frances walking out on her family. It’s Claudia’s own secret which eventually assists Leo and Frances to grow up and leave home, allowing Mendelson’s caustic satire to conclude on a note of forgiveness.

Slender, often farcical events are significantly enhanced by astute, affectionately mocking prose and a wicked but merciful intelligence.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-618-88343-1

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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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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