So lazy and off-the-cuff that one wonders if the author even bothered to reread her first draft.



Though billed as a novel, this very slight tale of a man and woman who switch souls on a stairway cedes about half its pages to an acerbic continuation of Weldon’s recent memoir, Auto da Fay (2003).

If only it were that engrossing. The narrative begins well enough, introducing us to Trisha, who gave up a modestly successful acting career nine years ago when she won the lottery but has now run through every penny. Selling all the expensive junk she acquired will barely cover her debts, so sexy, goodhearted, not-so-young Trisha goes to live above a dry-cleaners in a fringe-y section of London, promising the rapacious female proprietor that she will help out with the mending. “So far so good,” as Weldon writes after her cogent introduction of a heroine whose “soul was much like her mattress: soiled but comfortable.” Unfortunately, this phrase introduces the author’s rambling memories of her life and loves, which increasingly intrude into Trisha’s story and ensure that readers are captivated by neither. Just as we relax into Weldon’s amusingly cranky reminiscences, deciding that we will forgive the 73-year-old writer a certain amount of old-fart complaining (“our whole existence is threaded through with cheapo TV fiction”), we’re yanked back to Trisha or—worse—Peter, the yuppie who eventually ends up in her body and his tiresome girlfriend Doralee. (It’s symptomatic of the book’s general sloppiness that Doralee is “size 10 aiming for a size 8” in one chapter, a “size six thirty-two-year-old” 23 pages later.) Weldon’s eye for human weakness and vanity is as sharp and unforgiving as ever, and there’s mean-spirited fun to be had in her blistering account of husband Ron Weldon’s self-pity and self-serving contempt for his wife’s popular success. But she barely tries to make her absurd plot premise credible, or at least compelling, and she blows off her characters with a blood-soaked but silly finale.

So lazy and off-the-cuff that one wonders if the author even bothered to reread her first draft.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8021-1787-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

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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 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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