Those in the author's longtime and considerable following will be eagerly awaiting this second book (after Bright Captivity, 1991) in the trilogy concerned with the fortunes of the Coupers, Frasers, and other prime families of Georgia's St. Simons Island in the early 19th century. (The Frasers et al. did truly exist—in her cheerfully discursive afterword, Price offers a cemetery tour.) But others—those not of the Price fan-club persuasion—may find the 600-plus pages of expository converse, with sentimental postures, more than a bit wearying in spite of the careful research concerning the area's history. The story, set in St. Simons from 1825 to 1839, is mainly of the devoted marriage of Anne Couper and John Fraser, their children and relatives: Anne's parents, her brilliant brother, James; John's brother, Dr. William; and a visiting Scots cousin, Willy. Accompanying the latter to the States is English actress Fanny Kemble, an ardent abolitionist, whose handsome, shallow husband will come to own a plantation nearby. Meanwhile, slavery is much on the minds of everyone. John's hatred of slavery almost diverts him from a career as a planter; others, like Anne's father, have twinges of unease, but that's all, while Anne wonders whether her ``friend,'' the half-white (this is emphasized) slave Eve, could really be a friend in spite of her protestations of devotion (``She be my life''). Emotions all around are slowly sauteÇd: Anne worries that John won't be happy as a planter; Willy carries a torch for Anne; there are marriages and sad buryings; then a steamer explodes, and a murder is committed offstage. Events here do unfold slowly, but, worse, there seems to be no inner animation behind the stilled speech. Strictly for the large following—a picture (postcard) perfect view of plantation life on beautiful St. Simons Island.

Pub Date: May 7, 1993

ISBN: 0-385-26702-9

Page Count: 646

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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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 strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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