Talky, contrived, sure to please the fans.



Setting: the south of France. Plot: see quiz below.

(A) Lonely woman finds passion amidst the lavender. (B) Matriarch plans to reunite her scattered family. (C) Nice tycoon with own jet longs for real love. (D) Colorful villagers drink wine, raise tasty food, speak in standard high-school French for the benefit of American characters who might not understand Provencal dialect. (E) All of the above. (Answer: not surprisingly, E.) Yes, it’s another sun-drenched, corny-as-can-be tale from the indefatigable Adler (Summer in Tuscany, 2002, etc.). Let’s begin . . . Still beautiful but feeling her years, Rafaella Marten casts a rueful glance at her reflection in the gilt-framed mirror—why, she is old! And she’s alone, with no one but Haigh, her equally venerable butler, to care whether she lives or dies. Time to gather her far-flung descendants from every corner of the globe and see what happens. For the walls of Château des Roses Sauvage did once ring with children’s merry laughter, the gnarled old vines bore juicy grapes, love was in the air—though Rafaella’s deepest passion wasn’t for her much older, haute bourgeois husband—and every cliché in the book was new, so very new. Surely her family and friends will gather once more—from Shanghai, the Upper East Side, California. . . . Indeed they will, beginning with Franny Marten, a Santa Monica pet-care specialist who seems to have obtained her veterinary degree from a medical school (one of many howlers). Franny is wowed by widower Jake, the handsome master of a German shepherd she’s treated, owner of an international security company and of a Gulfstream (a few years old, as he points out modestly). Hey, are she and Jake related? No, but everyone else seems to be. And when they all get to Provence, will many, many family secrets be revealed in dull but dizzying complexity? Love is in the air again—c’est la vie. Or la guerre.

Talky, contrived, sure to please the fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-30811-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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 strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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