Gripping, though inconsistently, with Greta more compelling than Lili. And, for those so inclined, a hyperdetailed tour of...



Ebershoff, executive editor at Random House, tells the story of a man who gets turned into a woman: a leisurely and old-fashioned first novel that will doubtless be riveting to many; others may find it a grandiose canvas for what it actually offers.

Though the talented and energetic Greta Waud was born in 1897 in Pasadena, European ties led her family to Copenhagen, where they stayed until WWI frightened them back to the West Coast. Greta’s new love for her shy Danish painting instructor, Einar Wegener, appeared doomed by this retreat, and, back in California, she married an artist named Teddy Cross—a union happy until Teddy’s death from TB. Single again, Greta returned to Copenhagen to pursue her painting—and to marry the delicate Einar, who remained just as available as he—d been before the war. Years pass, until, one day in 1925, Greta, by now a working portraitist, asks Einar to stand in as model for her absent subject by putting on the woman’s stockings and dress—and awakens Einar’s long-suppressed desire, from earliest boyhood, to be but a woman. As this recognition strengthens, Einar cross-dresses more often, goes out alone—is even courted by a young man. Ever understanding and tolerant, Greta consults a doctor, whose suggestion that Einar be immured scares the couple off to permanent residence in Paris. With the help of Greta’s brother Carlisle and Einar’s boyhood friend Hans Axgil—now an art dealer, representing Greta’s portraits of the wan Lili, which sell like hotcakes—more doctors are consulted, all benighted except for Professor Doctor Bolk, of Dresden, who understands perfectly and agrees to perform the surgery that will be the beginning of profound changes, joys, and sorrows in the lives of all involved.

Gripping, though inconsistently, with Greta more compelling than Lili. And, for those so inclined, a hyperdetailed tour of times long gone.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-88808-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1999

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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