CABIN FEVER

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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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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