A shrewdly observant, emotionally astute postmodern version of a family saga. Here, Freud (Peerless Flats, 1993, etc.) focuses more on individual episodes than on continuity. Her parallel narratives trace, on the one hand, the collapse of the privileged lives of the wealthy Belgards in WWI-era Germany, and, on the other, the efforts of a descendant of the family to unravel its mysteries. The three Belgard sisters are, at first, more concerned with their long-simmering conflict with a distant mother than with the onset of war. Even the departure of their beloved brother Emmanuel to the army doesn’t much affect the tenor of their comfortable existence at Gaglow, the family’s vast country home. But little by little the war intrudes: The girls— father, an affluent grain merchant, watches his fortune dwindle; their brother disappears on the Eastern Front; and the once-sumptuous estate shows signs of disrepair and decay. Along the way, the author, great-granddaughter of Sigmund, shows an uncanny ability to get inside the turbulent minds of adolescent girls: Her depiction of Bina, Martha, and Eva’s dreams, fears, and fascinations is lively and detailed.. In a subplot set in modern London, Sarah, a sometime actress in her 20s, pregnant with her first child, gradually becomes consumed by the need to make sense of her ÇmigrÇ family’s obscure past. Her search is spurred by the news that Gaglow, having been held by the now-collapsed East German regime, will likely return to the family. Sarah and Eva’s parallel struggles as young women (Eva must face the collapse of her comfortable life, and the loss of family members; Sarah must deal with a baby, a stalled career, and a feckless boyfriend) are rendered with feeling, but the two stories never converge convincingly. And Freud, while she renders emotions with accuracy, never seems much interested in motivations. Still, the portrait of a vanished way of life is forceful and moving. And Freud’s elegantly uncluttered prose is a pleasure. A skilled, if somewhat uneven, performance.

Pub Date: April 23, 1998

ISBN: 0-88001-585-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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

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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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