Jungersen raises moral questions tactfully, without trivializing the issues.

READ REVIEW

THE EXCEPTION

Danish author Jungersen’s second novel, a bestseller in Europe and his first to be translated into English, suggests a connection between office politics and genocide; the book won Denmark’s Golden Laurels prize.

In the office of the nonprofit Danish Center for Information on Genocide (DCIG), five people work in too-close proximity to one another. Iben is an intellectual who writes tracts on the psychology of evil. A few months earlier she had been briefly held as a hostage in Kenya, so she has witnessed hatred first hand. Her best friend Malene had helped her get her job at DCIG, but what began as a source of gratitude is gradually becoming a source of resentment. Paul is the effective leader of the organization on a macroscopic level, but he’s an ineffectual arbiter of office politics. When Iben receives a life-threatening e-mail, her first thought is that it came from Mirko Zigic, a Serbian war criminal on whom Iben has written an exposé, but other possibilities emerge. Could it have been Anne-Lise, the librarian ostracized by others in the office and perhaps trying to get revenge? Or Malene, who accuses others of having a split personality but who might be suffering from the pathology herself? When Malene’s boyfriend Rasmus is killed after trying to track down the source of the e-mail, everyone becomes a suspect, including the elusive Zigic. Jungersen makes the point that hatred and dehumanization start at a humble and comprehensible level, ironically in an office devoted to the chronicling of genocidal atrocities. Even timid Anne-Lise ultimately realizes that “we all have it in us to be murderers and executioners and war criminals.”

Jungersen raises moral questions tactfully, without trivializing the issues.

Pub Date: July 10, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-51629-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more