A superb, assured reminder that as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods—and that ain’t good.


A brilliant reworking of William Shakespeare’s King Lear for our day.

Henry Dunbar, bearing a proud Scottish name and lamenting declining fortunes and capacities, may or may not be “more sinn’d against than sinning.” At the outset of St. Aubyn’s (A Clue to the Exit, 2015, etc.) retelling, shuffling the order of the play, Lear is in a pricey English sanitarium, fuming that his hydra-headed business has been wrested from him: “They stole my empire and now they send me stinking lilies,” he howls, with no one but a fool named Peter to listen to him. Peter reminds him sympathetically, singsong, that he might as well cheer up, since the next step is the narrow grave: “How lightly we have tripped down those stairs, like Fred Astaires, twirling a scythe instead of a cane!” As in the original play, Dunbar is a sputtering font of righteous rage, indignant that daughters Abby and Megan have outmaneuvered him, incapable of separating out his “good” daughter, Florence, from all those he reckons have done him wrong; Florence, meanwhile, compounds his wrath by gladly living on her own out in the wilds of Wyoming, cut out of profits and out of the will. There’s but one thing to do, Dunbar decides, and that’s to bust out of psychiatric prison, go off the meds, and range the moorlands to work out a horrific realization: “there was no one else to blame for the treachery of everything; the horror, in the end, the horror was the way his mind worked.” St. Aubyn uses the play as a guide more than a template at points, but the basic truth remains that the best of Shakespeare stands up readily to adaptation in every age, from West Side Story to Ran and Scotland, PA. St. Aubyn’s recasting to make someone reminiscent of Rupert Murdoch at times, and perhaps Donald Trump at others, brings the Bard gracefully into our own day.

A superb, assured reminder that as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods—and that ain’t good.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-90428-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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