Eighth novel but only second US appearance for British writer Nicholson (Hunters and Gatherers, 1994): a darkly comic cornucopia set in a mythic London department store—gigantic and posh. The book's structure mirrors that of the sprawling, opulent store as we're taken through each of the nine floors—plus the many hidden rooms, subfloors, and secret corridors—and introduced to the over-the-top characters who inhabit Haden Brothers. There's the last of the brothers, Arnold, a recluse who keeps to himself in the store's penthouse, emerging only to ravish young shopgirls; then there are the anarchist porters who try to bring Haden Brothers to its knees; the perfect saleswoman whom everyone else hates; the apolitical, amoral, spineless artist who's there only because he can't seem to find a suitable artistic field—and who, while he contemplates searching for the right creative outlet, is being wooed by the anarchists as well as by the forces of consumerism within the store itself. Throw in a blind elevator attendant who can smell the goings-on in every corner; a kleptomaniac shopgirl; the fear of terrorism; and the ghostly presence of the architect who designed secret chambers for himself within Haden Brothers, and you have the usual Nicholson madcap, page-turning plot. But also, as usual, the author's crafty structural maneuverings are an excuse to probe deep into complex societal issues, here aiming right at the heart of conspicuous consumption, spinning off wicked takes on power and sex, longing and gratification, creativity and political engagement. Nicholson, the genius behind this commercial Tower of Babel, is both a master of large, complex, convoluted structures—and a comic satirist of biting precision.

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-13069-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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