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ADRIANNE GEFFEL

A FICTION

An entertaining satire about a musical genre not typically known for its humor.

A faux oral history of a sui generis performer in New York’s avant-garde music world.

In books like Positively Fourth Street (2001) and The Ten-Cent Plague (2008), Hajdu explored how countercultural folkies and comic-book artists rattled conformists in the 1950s and '60s. For his first novel, he attempts to do much the same for 1980s experimental music. Adrianne Geffel, we’re told early, is a household name thanks to her passionate and defiant nature, possessed of a prodigious talent and impatience for musical strictures. Plus, a mysterious disappearance established a mystique that got her name-checked by the likes of Cardi B and George Saunders. The oral historian doesn’t have access to Geffel herself, instead piecing her life together through interviews with family members, teachers, critics, and participants in New York’s downtown scene who prized intellectualism and a certain abrasiveness. (Susan Sontag and Twyla Tharp were eager to witness this “doyenne of downtown music.”) Despite (and thanks to) Geffel’s idiosyncrasies, she was accepted into the Juilliard School, caught the ears of highfalutin Village Voice and SoHo Weekly News writers, and seemed destined to rise to the semifame of a Steve Reich or Philip Glass. In truth, though, Geffel is something of a MacGuffin, a way for Hajdu to satirize the kinds of people who can’t appreciate genius when it’s right in front of them or who wish to exploit it: the critics, the Oliver Sacks–like neurologist, the sketchy self-declared manager, the record-label executive. It’s funny stuff, even if the targets are easy, though more of Geffel’s presence would’ve been welcome. Writing fiction whose central character is a cipher presents a challenge to even the most accomplished novelists (see Myla Goldberg’s Feast Your Eyes and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Sparsholt Affair), and Geffel’s own voice would’ve bolstered Hajdu’s mythmaking.

An entertaining satire about a musical genre not typically known for its humor.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-63422-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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