This tale of three cities loses cohesiveness amid all the globetrotting.


Poet and novelist Reeve (Robert Frost in Russia, 2001) offers a knotty, self-consciously literary narrative about two sisters, one a London painter, the other an academic living in Paris, who eventually transform themselves in New York.

After a childhood spent living with Aunt Margaret in Evanston, Ill., the girls went their separate ways and have not seen each other since. In Paris, Christine DeKalb is a Rousseau scholar who has married a hot-shot American venture capitalist, Mark, and has an eight-year-old, thoroughly Frenchified son, Nicholas. Jan Sawyer, a recovered drug addict whose painting is just beginning to take off and earn money, lives in a Camden Town squat with her funny, lovable boyfriend, guitarist Tom Henderson. In alternate chapters, Reeve records the lives of the sisters, which move in a parallel direction, then gradually intersect, at the urging of Aunt Margaret, in a Christmas card. Christine’s situation is more dire, as she confesses to her sister when they meet in London: Unhappy with the fashionable social rounds her arrogant husband secures through his Common-Market ties, Christine is having an affair with a Norwegian composer and filmmaker. Moreover, Christine has discovered that Mark’s business éminence grise, Ron Harmon, has actually sponsored her academic position without her knowledge, thus exposing her husband as a Machiavellian opportunist. To further test the sisters’ maturity, Jan is offered a commission she can’t refuse: to come to New York and paint self-congratulatory portraits of Harmon, Mark and the influential hostess and socialite niece from whom the men derive their power. Reeve’s story is a kind of cultural patchwork among the three cities (the scenes of New York are most unconvincing). The dialogue is a sophisticated prattle featuring pretentious quotes from Bartlett’s, and there’s plenty of corny national stereotyping—Nadine the French housekeeper, for instance, bakes tarts all day.

This tale of three cities loses cohesiveness amid all the globetrotting.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2005

ISBN: 1-59051-145-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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