Steeped in largely feminine/lesbian sensuality and peopled by famous and cultural figures of pre–World War II Europe, the...



Avery (The Teahouse Fire, 2006, etc.) is right in step with the current publishing trend toward romantic yet literary historical fiction with this imagined romance between the cubist/art deco artist Tamara de Lempicka and the model Rafaela, who appears in six of her paintings.

The first, longer section of the novel is told from half-Italian-American Catholic/half-Jewish Rafaela Fano’s viewpoint and set among the sexually fluid ex-pats of Paris in 1927. On her way from the Bronx to an arranged marriage in Italy at age 17, Rafaela runs away to Paris, where she quickly becomes part of the demimonde. Rafaela meets 27-year-old Tamara de Lempicka in the Bois de Boulogne (a factual encounter), and Tamara takes her home to pose. Already an established painter, Tamara is an aristocratic émigré from Poland by way of Russia and the mother of a young daughter. She is also going through a difficult divorce and has had affairs with men and women. Soon Tamara and Rafaela are lovers. Rafaela has been paid for sex by numerous men, but for the first time she falls in love. What Tamara feels is less clear because she lives within a self-invented, larger-than-life persona. She is a serious artist and her sexual passion for Rafaela seems real, but so is her passion for money. Soon she embroils Rafaela in a scheme that pits two wealthy art buyers in a competition over who gets the second version of her painting “Beautiful Rafaela,” a painting she promises Rafaela she will never sell. The novel’s shorter second section shifts to 1980 Mexico, where the aged Tamara spends her last days.

Steeped in largely feminine/lesbian sensuality and peopled by famous and cultural figures of pre–World War II Europe, the novel is a dark, sexy romp, although it ends in a disappointing whimper.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59448-813-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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 modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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