Seven Irish novelists—Joseph O’Connor, Anne Enright, Colm To°b°n, Roddy Doyle, Jennifer Johnston, Hugo Hamilton, and Bolger himself—collaborate, with generally good and at times outstanding results, to tell a tale of a single night in a once-famous, soon-to-be-demolished Dublin hotel. Each of the writers here brings to life a guest who occupies a room on the first floor. Room 101 provides novel entertainment for aging Ben, who’s never before been in a hotel. His walk on the wild side takes him in and out of his room, the bar, the residents’ lounge, and the nightclub, until finally his intervention in a curbside domestic dispute rewards him with a bloody nose. For sisters Rose and Ivy in 102, it’s a rare meeting, requested by matronly Ivy in order to persuade her London-based sibling to come home to see their mother’something Rose has refused to do since leaving home at age 17. Ken walks into 103 with a ghetto-blaster and a plot to get his revenge on the woman who jilted him. The stories from 104 and 105 are easily the most striking: the former involves the hotel manager and the history of Finbar’s, which achieved its success partly through the famous discretion of the founder, the grandfather of the man in 104; the woman in 105 is dying of cancer, but by chance meets an Irish-Jewish tour guide from New York, who gives her the courage to tell her husband and children her sad secret. Peopling other tales are a woman over from America to settle her father’s estate (and her memory of a teenage romance), and a burglar trying to sell a Rembrandt and other paintings that represent the heist of his life. More than a curiosity, but less than a masterwork: a collection that holds together surprisingly well given that each story is ultimately self-contained.

Pub Date: March 17, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-600633-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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