Often powerful and compelling, but weakened by an overabundance of darkness and violence.

TAMING THE BEAST

A twisted love affair forever changes the path of a bright young woman.

Sarah Clark is a precocious child. She comes from an Australian family where academic excellence is the norm and failure is unacceptable. When a dynamic teacher named Daniel Carr seduces 14-year-old Sarah, she is thrilled to enter his perverse world and gain his attention. Daniel becomes a father figure to Sarah—an older man to please and adore. Her sexual awakening is powerful, and she becomes addicted to Daniel’s touch. Maguire does her best to convince the reader that Sarah and Daniel have a relationship. But these initial sexual encounters are nothing short of molestation—their relationship is far from erotic. Daniel leaves Sarah’s school district, mysteriously, and the damage to Sarah is irreparable. This once-promising young scholar is ruined; she feels abandoned and attempts to self-destruct by way of unprotected sex, binge-drinking and drug use. As a college student, Sarah’s existence involves waitressing at a seedy steak house and luring strangers to her filthy apartment. Despite her numerous trysts, she remains empty—constantly longing for the violence and degradation she received at the hands of her teacher. For Sarah, love and pain are inexorably linked. When Daniel and Sarah meet again, it seems they deserve to beat each other senseless, for they are despicable characters. Maguire aims high in her debut novel, attempting to craft a tragic romance in the spirit of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre (she tosses in allusions to the classics). But while her writing manages to convey urgency, she doesn’t deliver penetrating personalities.

Often powerful and compelling, but weakened by an overabundance of darkness and violence.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-112216-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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