In a kind of Parisian Evelyn Waugh with sex, de Rhodes manages to create a Gallic universe of Bright Young Things set loose...

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THE LITTLE WHITE CAR

In a madcap romp through the back alleys of Paris, de Rhodes (pen name of Dan Rhodes: Timoleon Vieta Come Home, 2003, etc.) introduces us to a slacker bohemian who may have killed Princess Diana.

Veronique is a 22-year-old photographer trying to make it as an artist while living in the suburbs and working at a boring office full of commuting zombies. Her insufferable boyfriend, Jean-Pierre, writes film reviews for an obscure magazine and composes experimental music so bad that even Veronique won’t listen to it. The day after Veronique finally worked up the nerve to throw Jean-Pierre over, she wakes up late to learn that the Princess of Wales has died in a car crash in the Pont d’Alma—and that the white Fiat that Veronique drove home from Jean-Pierre’s has a smashed-up hood. Observers recalled seeing a mysterious white Fiat cut in front of the Princess’s limousine just before the crash, and Veronique’s last conscious memory of the night before was driving her Fiat slowly and deliberately into the Pont d’Alma on her way home. Did she kill the Princess of Wales! Veronique keeps a cool head and calls her best friend, Estelle, who advises her to break into Jean-Pierre’s apartment and steal his stereo so she can sell it and get money to repair the car before the gendarmes come calling. Veronique makes arrangements. By the time she has the money, though, every auto-shop in France has been warned about smashed-up white Fiats, so Veronique sleeps with the would-be mechanic and tells him to forget she ever called. Jean-Pierre turns out to be quite understanding about his stereo, so she sleeps with him, too. This may be her best move, because he turns out to know some East European sculptors who specialize in car art.

In a kind of Parisian Evelyn Waugh with sex, de Rhodes manages to create a Gallic universe of Bright Young Things set loose upon the world. Vive la différence!

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2004

ISBN: 1-84195-289-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Canongate

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2004

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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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