Four angry young 1970s women form a feminist publishing house in London only to find their own ambition no less virulent than men’s—in Weldon’s (Wicked Women, 1997, etc.) wry and witty examination of where feminism went wrong and, occasionally, right. The sexual revolution has just begun, but Stephanie is already fed up with her marriage to antiques dealer Hamish, a suburban heartthrob who lusts after every woman but her. Hosting a consciousness-raising meeting one summer evening, Stephanie thrills to the suggestion made by Layla, an heiress, that the women start their own publishing house and call it Medusa. She even joins in as Layla, Alice (an academic and I Ching addict), and Zoe (overeducated housewife/mom) defiantly remove their clothes and dance naked and unashamed before the living room windows. But when Stephanie wanders upstairs to find Daffy, another “sister,” getting it on with Hamish, she abandons the house without even her clothes, leaving husband, home and children in guileless Daffy’s hands. Stephanie’s marriage may be dead, but Medusa has been born; for the next two-and-a-half decades, Stephanie, Layla, and Alice struggle to keep their woman-centered business solvent without crossing the border into “unacceptable” commercial success. Along the way, they suffer the indignities of loneliness—as the courts limit Stephanie’s access to her children, Layla continues an affair with a powerful but married man, and Alice moves ever closer to the maniacal extremes of goddess-worship. But at least they have each other. Zoe, who opted for a traditional family life, labors in isolation on her book (Lost Women) and then commits suicide when her husband tells her (falsely) that Medusa has turned the manuscript down. Eventually, Medusa turns the book into a massive success—but with success will come the seeds of disintegration. Weldon’s clever comparisons of yesterday’s mores to today’s spice up this bubbling feminist brew, offering a study of the costs and consequences of the idealistic life that is sharp, funny, and all too true.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-87113-720-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?