TROUBLE

Weldon's latest satiric bauble about a marriage on the rocks (Life Force, 1992, etc.). ``We're all Serbs and Croats and Bosnians at heart,'' says the pregnant Annette Horrocks, and then goes on to describe a news photo she saw of several young men sawing through someone's neck in the former Yugoslavia. The picture parallels her own life, Annette says—only her husband has ``been sawing through the inside of my head, not the outside, that's all.'' Indeed, Spicer Horrocks has been—although he sees the changes he's making in his life as positive and necessary. He and Annette have been married for ten years when she starts noticing strange signs—he takes up astrology, pores over a book entitled Cutting Free from Hurtful Ties, won't let Annette speak during sex, and castigates her for everything. She tries to talk it out, with Spicer turning it all back on her; indulges him by going into therapy, only to be sexually assaulted by the shrink of Spicer's choice; and smiles and accepts the blame (she calls this doing a ``Tweetie-pie''). Her best friend, Gilda, suspects that Spicer's jealous because Annette's about to publish her first novel. But Spicer's Jungian analyst, Dr. Rhea Marks, has another explanation: ``Spicer is leaving you, Mrs. Horrocks, and the material world.'' Meanwhile, Spicer avoids putting the house in Annette's name and stashes away cash—to ease his passing to another plane? It takes an excruciatingly long time for Annette to stop letting herself be victimized...but she does. This begins with all the wicked froth we've come to expect from the author of The Live and Loves of a She-Devil (1984), then crashes into a wall of pessimism about relations between the sexes- -making it one of Weldon's bitterest efforts so far. She usually distributes her satire more evenhandedly; here, husbands and therapists get coated with it, while the wife comes out clean. Not Weldon's best, then, but bracing stuff nonetheless.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-670-84148-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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