A debut collection(winner of the 1997 Western Australian Premier’s Book of the Year Award) that sneaks a sidelong view of history as the true and only drama left to us moderns. Most of the real-life characters here are famous, but the 12 stories that Jones invents for them will surprise readers who think they—ve heard it all before. Madame Tussaud and Elvis Presley, Walt Whitman and Anton Chekhov, Karl Marx’s daughter—all are pulled out of the confines of mere biography and kneaded into a postmodern dough that rises with the yeast of invention. Thus, we find Eleanor Marx dying slowly while slaving over her translation of Madame Bovary, whereas Anton Chekhov falls quietly in love with a Ceylonese servant girl (whom he leaves but never manages to forget). The “fetish” of the title quickly reveals itself as an obsession, shared by all the principal characters, for some minor object, event, or person whose importance swells into a consuming passion. In “The Veil,” a member of the firing squad that executes Mata Hari receives a last seductive glance from the femme fatale just at the moment that he pulls the trigger, and thereby becomes the condemned woman’s final victim. In “Queenie the Wordless,” a working-class Australian girl, convinced she is an heir to the British throne, is struck dumb while listening to Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas broadcast. And in “Touch,” the homosexual Walt Whitman is transformed into a kind of literary paterfamilias after haunting various artists who lived after him, from van Gogh to Kafka to Isadora Duncan. Fascinating and marvelously fluid, though occasional lapses into pomposity (—How many landmines, after all, have confiscated how many souls? What is it that returns to earth in such bloodied bits and pieces?”) threaten to ditch Jones into an academic gutter. Fortunately, she always pulls out in time.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8076-1440-8

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Braziller

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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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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