SOLE SURVIVOR

Charming misfits-in-paradise idyll from British-born, Australia-based novelist Hansen, in which love and kindness bloom improbably among three social outcasts on a remote corner of New Zealand’s Great Barrier Island. Hansen’s turn at the eternal triangle begins when Rosie Trethewey, a spunky, pre-feminist divorced psychologist, takes a break from her job as an Auckland marketing researcher for toilet-bowl cleaning products to investigate a cottage bequeathed to her by a former patient. Rosie discovwers the shack on the wild southern tip of Great Barrier Island. Despite its awkwardly located outhouse and refractory woodstove, she finds its isolation an answer to unvoiced prayers. But her arrival provokes confusion in her oddball neighbors Red O’Hara, a handsome but demented workaholic survivor of a Japanese POW camp, and Angus McLeod, a misanthropic retired policeman who works off his repressed paternal urges by writing children’s books. Fearing that Rosie will usher in the civilized complications they dread, Angus and Red dismiss her as an ignorant woman not cut out for the rigors of wilderness life. Such treatment only inspires Rosie to stay, proving Angus wrong, and nurture Red’s wounded psyche, if not take him to bed. Rosie achieves every goal, though not without moments of comic discomfort (men keep interrupting her every time she wants to soak in the tub) and visits from the breezy but not sleazy Navy Lt. Commander Michael “Mickey” Finn, who, in addition to sharing Rosie’s bed, wants Red to get proof that the wily Japanese Captain Shimojo Seiichi is fishing illegally within New Zealand’s territorial waters. Red ‘s discovery of a cache of military explosives gives the bickering islanders the power to blow Seiichi sky-high. Paced so slowly that it might as well have been written on island time, but, still, Hansen’s feel-good screwball romance is sufficiently sexy and exotic to build him a stateside following.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85407-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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