One more eloquent plea for freedom and tolerance from an accomplished writer and conscience of her country.



A first novel from noted activist Duong, whose work is currently banned in Vietnam, is as disturbingly powerful in its depiction of totalitarianism as her later were to be (Memories of a Pure Spring, 2000, etc.).

Though her prose is at times cloyingly lyrical, Duong’s story itself is a grim reminder of the price tyranny exacts. She offers memorable portraits of 1980s Hanoi in introducing three characters who all face moral crises about the way they live. Too subtle to make their dilemma a polemic, Duong is also too honest to discount the political implications of their situations, and, though the themes she raises are universal, they have an immediate and compelling relevance for Vietnam. Beautiful and idealistic literature teacher Linh no longer loves her husband Nguyen, a once-idolized former professor who’s now a hack journalist producing what his editors want. While ashamed of his compliance, he sees no alternative if he is to provide a good living for Linh and their daughter Huong Ly. Unhappy and restless, Linh drifts into an affair with noted composer Tran Phuong, a married man and notorious womanizer currently out of favor with the regime. Tran seems to Linh everything Nguyen is not, but Tran, who longs for the perks of acceptance (“the white Moscovic car gliding across the courtyard”), is prepared to pay the necessary price. Linh is penalized by the school authorities for leaving her husband and having an affair; Nguyen, meanwhile, still deeply in love with Linh, faces a moral dilemma at work: whether to write the truth about a senior official accused of raping young women or keep quiet. As all three wrestle with their consciences, Linh, whose youthful idealism has been tempered by reality, understands that life endures in spite of “the ruins. In spite of the lies.”

One more eloquent plea for freedom and tolerance from an accomplished writer and conscience of her country.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-6417-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2002

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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