Lackluster studies with little narrative payoff.




Two novellas about erotic obsession, by Israeli author Grossman (Someone to Run With, 2004, etc.).

The first, “Frenzy,” details the strange case of Shaul, an Israeli civil servant. Now 55, he has been married for 25 years to Elisheva, who runs a day care center. Every morning, Elisheva leaves for her ritual swim, ostensibly, but Shaul knows better; she is actually enjoying trysts with Paul, a Soviet Union immigrant she once counseled. This has been going on for ten years, like clockwork. Shaul tolerates the infidelity, mentioning nothing. On a long car ride, he confides all to his sister-in-law Esti, who realizes that the trysts are Shaul’s fantasies. Shaul’s own sex life with his wife has dwindled to the joyless coupling of sleepwalkers, and, as a counterbalance, thinks Esti, he feasts masochistically on encounters that satisfy body and soul, “the essence of his life.” For the reader, Shaul is never more than a case history who needs to get a life, and the other piece, “In Another Life,” is equally contrived. Rotem is an Israeli woman writer who has relocated to London but is now back in Israel to visit her dying mother, Nili. Their relationship has been troubled. Nili was a sometimes neglectful mother who once abandoned Rotem and her sisters to go on a wild-goose chase for a former yoga student. Now, Rotem is reading to her mother her fictional reconstruction of that key episode. In her version, Nili is teaching yoga at a rundown Dead Sea resort when she becomes enchanted by 15-year-old Kobi, a desperately unhappy youth who has attempted suicide. Kobi responds positively to her exercises, which culminate in Nili’s massage of the naked boy. Though the language is drenched in eroticism, the chaste teacher-student prevails in an uncomfortable standoff. Nili never finds her Kobi, but the reconstruction purges mother and daughter of their old resentments.

Lackluster studies with little narrative payoff.

Pub Date: May 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-17557-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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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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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 modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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