Schmitt’s three complex stories are beautifully translated and masterfully written.

THREE WOMEN IN A MIRROR

Schmitt (Concerto to the Memory of an Angel, 2011, etc.) writes movingly about three women, divided by time and distance, whose lives connect when they attempt to break free of expectations imposed by society.

Displaying empathy for women and the constraints they face simply because they’re born in a certain era, the author delivers three fascinating, multilayered stories that merge in an unusual way. Young, pure Anne lives in Bruges at a time when most eligible young men are off fighting in the Crusades. Other girls envy her impending marriage to a handsome young man, but when a mirror splinters on the floor, Anne escapes her aunt’s home and her unwanted engagement and takes refuge in the woods. There, she finds comfort and companionship surrounded by nature. Labeled as a chosen one, Anne eventually travels with a trusted monk to a convent, where the poetry she writes is misinterpreted and her faith is questioned, but she remains resolute in her beliefs. Years later, in early-20th-century Vienna, another young woman seeks answers to her own questions. Hanna is married to a loving nobleman who adores her, but her unhappiness manifests itself in inexplicable actions and compulsive behavior. Seeking understanding of her despair, she turns to psychoanalysis and one of Sigmund Freud’s disciples. In present-day Hollywood, a third young woman buries her pain in sex, drugs and alcohol. Anny is a beautiful, brilliant actress who’s on a self-destructive course as she and the sycophants who surround her pursue the almighty dollar, the ultimate symbol of success in the movie industry. But when she crosses paths with a hospital employee, a character actress and an acting role with substance, Anny’s life begins to take on new meaning. Each woman’s journey is unique and painful, yet enchantingly sweet, as she works toward self-realization and rejects conformity.

Schmitt’s three complex stories are beautifully translated and masterfully written.

Pub Date: July 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60945-122-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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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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