PUBLIC LIFE

Another fragmented, sophisticated, terribly solemn novel by Akins (Home Movie; Little Woman)—this one starring Ann Matter, a shell-shocked media consultant whose fatal flaw is her fervent belief in her own media creation. Ann was once a sweet, pretty college student with a passion for film, but she lost her innocent enthusiasm once she became pregnant and agreed under pressure from her lover, David, to have the child. After the birth, Ann hands the baby over to David and flees them both in a desperate, misguided attempt to regain her purity. Undergoing surgery to perfect her appearance, she embarks on a cool, meticulous, comforting advertising career in which the appearance of objects, and the layers of associations she can evoke from their images, count for more than the objects themselves. It's a small step from this to taking a job as media representative for old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy Democratic Texas Governor Henry Anderson during his bid for the White House. Inspired by Anderson's real basic virtue, Ann eagerly grabs onto his best human qualities, exaggerating and enhancing them into a larger-than-life, mass- market image. Her efforts are so successful that by the time Anderson takes Pennsylvania Avenue his image has superseded his political positions, and he and his creator have fallen into a lockstep so in sync that it's difficult to tell which one of them is running the country. The union also proves too threatening for a jealous press secretary and Anderson's rebellious son, who soon conspire to sully Ann's and Anderson's reputations in the press. Despite Ann's struggles, her creation begins to wobble, and her tidy world is sent reeling as both David, reading in the papers of her struggles, and Anderson, panicked at the thought of becoming merely mortal again, take abrupt, violent action.... The power and independent life of the media image are, as always, an intriguing theme—but Akins's pointillistic, humorless style merely skitters across its surface.

Pub Date: May 7, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-016753-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Hilderbrand’s portrait of the upper-crust Tate clan through the years is so deliciously addictive that it will be the “It”...

THE ISLAND

Queen of the summer novel—how could she not be, with all her stories set on an island—Hilderbrand delivers a beguiling ninth (The Castaways, 2009, etc.), featuring romance and mystery on isolated Tuckernuck Island.

The Tate family has had a house on Tuckernuck (just off the coast of swanky Nantucket) for generations. It has been empty for years, but now Birdie wants to spend a quiet mother-daughter week there with Chess before Chess’s wedding to Michael Morgan. Then the unthinkable happens—perfect Chess (beautiful, rich, well-bred food editor of Glamorous Home) dumps the equally perfect Michael. She quits her job, leaves her New York apartment for Birdie’s home in New Canaan, and all without explanation. Then the unraveling continues: Michael dies in a rock-climbing accident, leaving Chess not quite a widow, but devastated, guilty, unreachable in the shell of herself. Birdie invites her younger daughter Tate (a pretty, naïve computer genius) and her own bohemian sister India, whose husband, world-renowned sculptor Bill Bishop, killed himself years ago, to Tuckernuck for the month of July, in the hopes that the three of them can break through to Chess. Hunky Barrett Lee is their caretaker, coming from Nantucket twice a day to bring groceries and take away laundry (idyllic Tuckernuck is remote—no phone, no hot water, no ferry) as he’s also inspiring renewed lust in Tate, who has had a crush on him since she was a kid. The author jumps between the four women—Tate and her blossoming relationship with Barrett, India and her relationship with Lula Simpson, a painter at the Academy where India is a curator, Birdie, who is surprised by the recent kindnesses of ex-husband Grant, and finally Chess, who in her journal is uncoiling the sordid, sad circumstances of her break with normal life and Michael’s death.

Hilderbrand’s portrait of the upper-crust Tate clan through the years is so deliciously addictive that it will be the “It” beach book of the summer.

Pub Date: July 6, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-316-04387-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more