Lively, likable novel from Freeman (a story collection, A Hollywood Education, 1986; The Last Days of Alfred Hitchcock, 1984) about a child star who grows into an adult star. Questions abound as the reader digs into what is at nearly every turn a familiar story that keeps glancing off real lives without ever focusing on one. At novel's beginning, the heroine drowns near Santa Barbara under circumstances very much like those that claimed former child star Natalie Wood, at about the same age, so one expects a roman Ö clef about Natalie. But when we get into her child-star period, the novel keeps echoing Shirley Temple. At a later age, the heroine—who marries a radical reporter who spends two years in Vietnam—wants to stand up against the government and later does a movie about exercise and weight reduction—all from the hills of Fonda. So what Freeman gives us in Carla Tate, born Karen Teitel, is a collage heroine but one with a strong enough character to carry the story herself. Carla makes her first screen appearance at six days of age. A few years later she's making a kiddie series at MGM as Georgina with her horse Lewis. What the studio sees instantly in little Carla is a screen natural, a magnetically relaxed actress. After some initial sex experiences, 17-year-old Carla falls under the protective hand of her married lover Jack Markel, 30 years her senior. Jack is a huge power and dark handler of labor unions. It's his idea that Carla marry and have kids while keeping up a liaison with him, and Carla goes through three husbands without ever discarding Jack. When her end comes, nothing much is resolved, no sense of tragedy stirs the reader. It's all as empty as a wonderful-to-watch piece of fluff, like The Barefoot Contessa. Sharp Hollywood detail, gripping—that will fade like smoke.

Pub Date: July 31, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-72738-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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