A convincing but plodding and predictable portrait of romantic awkwardness.

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FIVE DAYS APART

Irish novelist Binchy’s third novel (Open-Handed, 2008, etc.)—and American debut—is a lusterless present-day version of a Cyrano de Bergerac–like love triangle involving a tongue-tied man, a pretty woman and the friend and lady’s man the shy guy employs, disastrously, to help win over his beloved.

This book by the nephew of Maeve Binchy opens at a beer-soaked party. David, a stolid and decent guy who’s hopelessly unsmooth, is instantly smitten with Camilla, but he finds himself dumbstruck as usual (“Oh,” he manages to say, and then she’s gone). So David enlists the help of glib, confident Alex, a lifelong pal who will, David imagines, be his conduit and spokesman, and he goes to chat her up. Soon Alex and Camilla are a couple, and David feels left out and aggrieved. He hurls himself back into his studies, finishes school with distinction, drifts away from Alex and Camilla and finds success in high finance. But still he can’t purge the romantic vision of Camilla from his mind, and he re-engages with the couple, spending evenings with them. He’s biding his time, only half-conscious of the fact, but Alex’s attachment to Camilla proves deeper and more enduring than David had imagined it could be, based on track record. Eventually, when Alex seems at last to grow more disaffected and unreliable, David—his confidence growing with his worldly successes—decides the time has come to quit being the emasculated third wheel, the benign, taken-for-granted friend. He makes his move and reaps the consequences, both good and bad.

A convincing but plodding and predictable portrait of romantic awkwardness.

Pub Date: June 29, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-170435-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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