Something less than the definitive portrait of a frustratingly elusive great writer, but an agreeable read nonetheless, and...




Giardina turns from socially conscious historical novels (Fallam’s Secret, 2003, etc.) to a fictionalized biography of sui generis poet and novelist Emily Brontë.

It begins with a flash-forward in which Emily, anticipating her death from consumption, begins to read her masterpiece Wuthering Heights to her indulgent father Patrick, a venerable Yorkshire clergyman. The story then focuses on Emily’s childhood as one of five sisters, two of whom predecease her, and the bond of solidarity formed with siblings Anne and Charlotte, who will also live to write memorable fiction. Headstrong Emily incurs the displeasure of her masters at the Clergy Daughters’ School, to which the Brontë girls are sent to prepare for careers as governesses, and upon returning home scandalizes neighbors by roaming the moors unchaperoned, accompanied by her favorite dog and trained hawk. But her horizons expand significantly when handsome young curate William Weightman arrives to assist elderly Reverend Brontë. Weightman’s romantic imagination and passionate solidarity with exploited workers agitating for overdue reform attract Emily’s sympathetic attention and eventually her devotion. A catastrophic cholera outbreak destroys the incipient lovers’ dreams, and Emily retreats into the world of her teeming imagination, creating her passionate antagonist Heathcliff out of Weightman’s stoical decency and her own austere independence. Giardina’s research tends to occupy undue space and slacken the narrative pace. But the surpassingly strange Brontë family, which also includes surly ne’er-do-well brother Branwell, offers a fascinating spectacle, and the reader’s attention is held throughout several labored and redundant sequences. Most interesting, perhaps, is the pointed contrast Giardina presents between Emily’s untrammeled, indeed often admirable egoism and Charlotte’s emotional meanness and ruthless careerism.

Something less than the definitive portrait of a frustratingly elusive great writer, but an agreeable read nonetheless, and a good bet for reading groups.

Pub Date: July 27, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06915-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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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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