11 EDWARD STREET

A postmodern Victorian novel from Irish writer Boylan (Black Baby, Last Resorts) in which the squalid poverty and diminishing expectations of the numerous Devlin family of Dublin are related with almost gleeful black humor. Children of a misalliance—an English mother with style and social pretensions married to a working-class father—they live in a tenement, where one of their few rooms is given over to a display of expensive knickknacks and furniture that their mother brought from England. Of her ten children, Mrs. Devlin favors her three sons, for whom she nurtures extravagant expectations of social advancement; the girls, on the other hand, are expected to keep house and earn money as soon as they are old enough. Daisy, the eighth daughter, who is six when the story begins in 1896, is the main protagonist. Emotionally stunted by her adored father's sexual advances, she's the somewhat detached observer of this Dickensian family in which mother sacrifices all, including her daughters, for appearance's sake; sexual ignorance is the norm; and death is a regular caller—father is killed stopping a runaway horse; brother drowns in a canal; a sister dies in childbirth; and elder sister Lena dies of typhus. Daisy becomes a nun, but leaves the convent when she meets handsome Cecil Cantwell. They marry, have two children, but soft-hearted Cecil is a dreamer—and an inveterate ladies' man who can't be trusted even with one's sister. Daisy tries to live just for the day, but it's not easy, especially when married to Cecil. And as Ireland moves toward self-rule, the downbeat and pretty awful Devlin history sputters to an inconclusive end. Tart telling of the way it probably was in Dublin's not-so- fair city, and a relentlessly realistic riposte to all those affirmative sagas of intergenerational sweetness and life.

Pub Date: June 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-385-26176-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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