Some would have said that one volume, Jolley's last, My Father's Moon (1989), was enough spent on Vera Wright's airless coming-of-age; but, here, the young English nurse's coming-of-age keeps right on coming, only a tad less ungratifyingly than before. Vera is, as readers will recall from book one, one weird little WW II-era English girl, a little shifty, mulish, flaky, and much too innocent—though she never shakes her fist at heaven when struck by bad luck. Jonathan Metcalf, a married doctor at her teaching hospital, is the principal bringer of misfortune, since he gets her pregnant and then dies in the war, leaving Vera to take herself off to the home of a particularly distasteful couple, where she serves as mother's helper. When her baby, Helena, comes, she's delighted to make her escape from their diet foods and cloying pet-names, landing in a nursing home where she scrubs down walls and buries herself, while Helena grows into a unhealthily silent child. At last the need to join the living returns, and after a quick stint at a grim progressive school, Vera keeps house for an elderly brother and sister, conceiving illegitimate baby number two with the old boy, Mr. George. Interspersed are flashbacks and flashforwards to Vera in other times, but these are more dislocating than elucidating. And, besides, after a while one simply stops wanting to learn more about the all-too-unenthralling character. Jolley's trademark humor nips like a saucy dog at the heels of the proceedings, but never manages to draw blood—which is why fans of UK comedy would be better served by a spin through Fay Weldon.

Pub Date: July 3, 1991

ISBN: 0-06-016622-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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