THE YELLOW SOFA

A compact and vivid short novel, unpublished during his lifetime and previously untranslated into English, by the great Portuguese de Queir¢s (18431900) whose essential kinship with Balzac and Flaubert was not recognized until long after his death. An introductory note written in 1925 by the author's son reasons that this lean tale of marital infidelity and thwarted vengeance (it was discovered in a trunk filled with his father's manuscripts) was probably composed between 1877 and 1889 and was intended to form part of de Queir¢s's planned multivolume ``Scenes from Portuguese Life.'' It's the story of Godofredo Alves, a fat, balding businessman who is nevertheless ``something of a romantic'' and whose passions are raised to melodramatic extremes when, upon returning home unexpectedly, he finds his wife in the arms of his business partner. Godofredo plunges into a kaleidoscope of emotions, ranging from suicidal outrage to a chastened acceptance of others', and his own, frailty and foolishness. It's hard to say whether de Queir¢s considered the novella finished when he put it aside, and whether the complacent sense of peace that descends on Godofredo evinces no more than his own romantic myopia. What is certain is that de Queir¢s, one of the underappreciated masters of 19th-century realism, creates an amazing density of character and context in just a few bold strokes. An enormity of information about his protagonist's earlier life, overemotional temperament, and passive suggestibility is conveyed with imperturbable economy. Better still, as Godofredo's passions begin to cool, the very rhythm of the sentences slows and seems to ``breathe,'' as it were, more evenly, as if matching the altered pace of the man's bruised but slowly healing feelings. And in the closing half-dozen pages, we feel the weight of change and growth as they work their way through several inextricably entangled and mutually dependent lives. A slight work given depth and resonance by the indisputable presence of literary genius.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 1996

ISBN: 0-8112-1399-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1996

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 29


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 29


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Categories:

MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

Categories:
Close Quickview