FLEUR DE LEIGH'S LIFE OF CRIME

Being the daughter of self-absorbed Hollywood types turns out to be—what a shock—not much fun in this shallow, mildly amusing first novel. Fleur de Leigh (her name is the least of the indignities her parents inflict on her) is ten years old when the story begins in the spring of 1957. Fleur’s first-person narration seems awfully knowing for a fifth grader, but her parents never have treated her like a kid: Mom, a run-of-the-mill movie star now headlining in The Charmian Leigh Radio Mystery Half-Hour, is careless enough to let Fleur see her (improbably) boffing a Beverly Hills cop in the very first chapter; Dad, producer of a particularly demeaning TV quiz show, is wearied by his daughter’s youth and naivetÇ. Just as the author can—t decide whether her protagonist’s voice is that of a pitiful victim or a canny survivor, she also wavers between mining the humor in Charmian and Maurice Leigh’s egotism and portraying the pair as unfeeling monsters. The story itself, with most chapters named after Fleur’s nannies (few last more than a month or so), is similarly torn between trying to amuse and wanting to horrify. The nannies get steadily weirder (one winds up in a straitjacket), Fleur’s parents behave worse and worse (Maurice refuses to take Fleur to the hospital after an accident sends her through the windshield of his Cadillac), and our heroine learns nothing over the course of two-and-a-half years—except that her best friend Daisy has not committed suicide after being shipped off to boarding school but, rather, is happily ensconced in Switzerland with French clothes and an aristocratic English boyfriend. Poor Fleur’s only ally is the Leighs” gardener, Constantine, whose accent is as clichÇd as his force-of-nature role in the plot. Spottily funny, and maybe even accurate about late-’50s Hollywood, but much too uneven to make for satisfying fiction.

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85695-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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