A pleasure from first to last: Lodge gets better and goes deeper in each book.

DEAF SENTENCE

Another wise, witty look at the human condition from Lodge (Author, Author, 2004, etc.).

Linguistics professor Desmond Bates’s increasing deafness led him to take early retirement from his university in a northern English city. So now, in November 2006, he has little to do beyond visit his elderly father in London and perform the routine chores his wife Fred no longer has time for, thanks to her thriving interior-design business. Accompanying Fred to a noisy party in an art gallery, Desmond politely says yes to a question he hasn’t heard from an attractive blonde. She’s Alex Loom, an American getting her doctorate at his university, and at a subsequent meeting Desmond learns that she wants him to supervise her research on suicide notes. He hastily declines, but Alex isn’t easily discouraged. She’s also a liar and plagiarist with some pretty kinky sexual ideas. Desmond hasn’t done anything wrong, really, but he’s anxious to keep Alex from becoming another issue between him and Fred, who’s already annoyed by his excessive drinking and his lack of enthusiasm for the socializing she enjoys. Meanwhile, his father’s mental and physical health worsens, and an awkward family Christmas gathering reaches its comically awful nadir when both of Desmond’s earpiece batteries go dead. Taking the offer of a British Council lecture tour in Poland, complete with a trip to Auschwitz, seems like a sensible means of getting away from his problems. Of course, his pregnant daughter gives birth and his father has a stroke while Desmond is in Poland. No summary can do justice to the artful blend of humor and poignancy with which Lodge delineates the musings of a man facing his own aging and infirmities (Desmond’s virility is almost as iffy as his hearing) as well as the impending loss of his father. Suffice it to say that the book is wonderfully funny and extremely moving as Desmond reaches new accommodations with the people he loves and finds new serenity in the face of mortality.

A pleasure from first to last: Lodge gets better and goes deeper in each book.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-670-01992-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2008

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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