THE LAWS

Palmen's debut fiction—a bestseller in its original Dutch edition, 1991 winner of the European Novel of the Year Award—is a probing, disturbing vision of a woman whose identity is shaped by a series of encounters with men she admires. M. Deniet—young, restless, brilliant—pursues knowledge with a vengeance in Amsterdam as she works toward her master's in philosophy. Comfortable in the world of ideas after being exposed to the writings of Sartre at an early age, she thrills a succession of similarly driven, self-absorbed men, starting with the astrologer who wanders into her orbit and marvels over her unique planetary alignments. A scholarly epileptic makes her aware of the metaphorical implications of her skin condition, while a philosophy professor and a renowned author bring her to the recognition that hers isn't an affinity for Nietzsche, but rather an embrace of the worldview of Derrida, which she has acquired without reading him. Encouraged at every turn, she gives of herself sexually and intellectually in exchange, although she pines for renewed contact with a despairing sculptor—a Wunderkind gone belly-up—whom she fancies is her soulmate. But their relationship—when it finally forms—proves disappointing: he can't reciprocate her self- annihilating passion; and after making herself ill, she realizes that something in her understanding of love is terribly amiss. Therapy gives a partial answer in the recall of her first adolescent confrontation with authority, allowing her to pick up the pieces and carry on. Sophisticated and intensely perceptive: a well-crafted, haunting analysis of the creative process and desire—a portrait of the artist as a young woman.

Pub Date: July 26, 1993

ISBN: 0-8076-1329-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Braziller

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more