GOOD MATERIAL

An easy read for those with a soft spot for the hopelessly doomed romantic.

A struggling 35-year-old British comedian navigates a breakup with his long-term girlfriend.

With unmissable echoes of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, Alderton examines Andy Dawson’s excruciating inability to accept the fact that Jen Hammersmith no longer wants to be with him, which leads to various self-destructive behaviors—drinking before noon, cyber-stalking Jen, and embarking on a morally dubious sexual relationship with a woman in her early 20s. Andy is a man who suffers simultaneously from an enormous ego, poor self-confidence, and little self-awareness—character traits that combine to produce mortifying moments. His relationship with Avi, his long-suffering best friend, brilliantly captures the stereotypical male reluctance to express platonic love and to retreat to the pub in times of need. Andy’s mum—a single mother who isn’t keen on displays of emotion but will readily offer up a medicinal whiskey—deserves more airtime. Pep talks from a more successful comedian friend and an overzealous personal trainer provide a respite from the monotony of Andy’s misery, which begins to bore his closest friends and the reader alike. Echoing her earlier novels, Alderton examines how bewildering it can be for single people to find themselves alone in a crowd of married friends who suddenly have more pressing commitments than another pint of lager. But save for a couple of quips about Boris Johnson and the wealth disparity between Andy and Jen, the novel lacks any meaningful social commentary. The way the book makes a late switch to Jen’s perspective might remind readers of Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, but Alderton lacks Groff’s mastery and Jen’s point of view is dull. While the book is hardly original, it displays a quintessentially British sense of humor (ironic, self-effacing, coarse), and Alderton has a talent for depicting love, flaws and all.

An easy read for those with a soft spot for the hopelessly doomed romantic.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2024

ISBN: 9780593801307

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

GIRL ABROAD

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

A rock star’s daughter decides to study abroad in search of her own experiences, finding romance and intrigue along the way.

For 19-year-old Abbey Bly, having a rock star for a father isn’t as glamorous as it seems. For one thing, she shares her name with Abbey Road, and for another, the only version of the famous Gunner Bly she knows is the helicopter parent she lives with in Nashville. Hoping to find her way outside her father’s sphere of influence, Abbey decides to spend a semester in London studying European history at Pembridge University. Promising to keep her father updated on every aspect of life abroad, Abbey heads to her shared apartment expecting to find three female roommates…only to find that she’s actually living with three men. Afraid that Gunner will order her home, Abbey decides to keep Lee, Jack, and Jamie’s gender a secret (lucky their names sound androgynous!) and sets her sights on adventure. While working on a research project about a mysterious painting and adapting to Britain’s drinking culture, Abbey finds time to explore a little romance despite her housemates’ strict no-fraternizing rule. First there’s Jack, a commitment-phobic Australian hottie who can’t seem to stay away from Abbey; then there’s Nate, a sexy bassist who keeps forgetting he’s taken. Toying with nonexclusive relationships and exploring her sexuality, Abbey can’t help but feel excited about all the experience she’s gaining, but has she really, truly found herself? Kennedy’s novel is a page-turner—who wouldn’t want to travel to a foreign country and meet interested potential lovers down the hall? Abbey is a relatable character who yearns to stand outside her father’s shadow, and though the love triangle is a focal point, it never outshines the heroine’s growth.

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9781728299792

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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