Not one of this talented author’s most ambitious works, but warmhearted, readable and entertaining.

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LANDING

Lesbian romance goes mainstream in this charming tale by Donoghue (Touchy Subjects, 2006, etc.) of a cosmopolitan Irish flight attendant and her down-home Canadian girlfriend struggling to find common ground for their newfound love.

You might call it “meeting cute” when Jude Turner, mildly butch curator of a rural Ontario museum, locks eyes in flight with well-groomed, expensively perfumed and bejeweled beauty Síle O’Shaughnessy, except that they’re staring at each other because the fellow passenger slumped on Jude’s shoulder is clearly dead. Despite the grim introduction and other unpromising circumstances—Síle has a steady girlfriend; Jude’s en route to London to collect her ailing mother—the two women definitely feel a spark, and soon they’re e-mailing each other several times a day. Their epistolary flirtation is nervous and sexy and funny in the best romantic-comedy tradition; Donoghue’s unspoken point is that a gay love affair is just like any other. Boring old Kathleen (the steady girlfriend) isn’t the obstacle, nor is the fact that pushing-40 Síle is 14 years older than Jude. Instead, as the author vividly sketches their separate lives, we see that the real problem is each woman’s passionate attachment to her home turf: bustling, booming Dublin, where Síle touches down to gossip and reminisce with friends as urbane and fidgety as she; and the tiny town of Ireland, Ontario, where Jude was born, knows everyone and still occasionally sleeps with her not-yet-ex-husband. This is fairly standard stuff, not nearly as challenging or thematically deep as Donoghue’s historical novels Slammerkin (2001) and Life Mask (2004). But it rises above the commonplace with its razor-sharp prose, full-bodied portraits of all the secondary characters and shrewd observations about everything from social change in Ireland to the politics of museum funding. The two protagonists are believable, lovable women whose hesitations are understandable and whose happy ending seems more than deserved.

Not one of this talented author’s most ambitious works, but warmhearted, readable and entertaining.

Pub Date: May 7, 2007

ISBN: 0-15-101297-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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