Suspense driven primarily by characters’ blind spots still makes for a Teflon-slick beach read.

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SHARING SEAN

Four London women conspire to share the alliteratively available Sean.

First-timer Pye’s four heroines have the requisite wildly divergent backgrounds. Lily is the American expat creator of a hugely successful BBC comedy series; Mara, the disowned daughter of an Indian appliance magnate; Terry, Liverpudlian runaway turned London double-decker driver, and Jules, a Chelsea event planner who went AWOL from her destined marriage to an earl. The four have been friends since their early days of “slender means,” and now our Brit chicks, all survivors of bad relationships, are in the late-30s’ zone where their male companionship needs teeter on the brink of going forever unmet. So Lil concocts a scheme—she wants just two nights a week of uncomplicated sex from her latest squeeze, Sean, a builder-developer who specializes in rehabbing industrial space into lofts. The quartet can “share Sean,” each according to her wont: sperm for Jules; male influence for Paul, Terry’s teenaged son whose absentee father reappeared long enough to lapse into a cirrhotic coma. Widowed Mara opts out. Once a call girl, she, with her two daughters, clings to penury, trying to stave off a custody suit by prejudiced in-laws. Sean, whose unwitting compliance bespeaks a certain willed ignorance essential to the plot, impregnates Jules, befriends Paul, and is drawn to Terry, whose class origins approximate his. Mara is disabused of her remaining illusion, and Jules’s miscarriage follows her harridan mummy’s harangue—coincidence? Terry and Sean telegraph missed signals, and as Lil’s nonchalance gives way to dog-in-the-mangering, the quartet spins apart. But even a desultory tabloid exposé can’t postpone the happy dénouement indefinitely, and before you can say, “Cheers, babe,” the group reunites for yet more glasses of bubbly, unencumbered by any suggestion that the characters, or plot, which has as many exposed struts as one of Sean’s lofts, could benefit from a stint in rehab.

Suspense driven primarily by characters’ blind spots still makes for a Teflon-slick beach read.

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-054556-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2004

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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