THE FOOD CHAIN

Kinky food and sex games are the stuff of this high-energy black comedy from the British Nicholson, his fifth novel but first US publication. Virgil Marcel is flying to London as a guest of the ancient and mysterious Everlasting Club. Virgil is the obnoxious, spoiled rotten son of Frank Marcel, founder of the Golden Boy chain, Howard Johnson-like restaurants in California; the only work he's done since college is to revamp his father's one fancy restaurant, now the last word in L.A. chic. In London, a black chauffeur, Butterworth, drives Virgil blindfolded to the club, where his host Kingsley, an upper-class twit, explains the club's tradition of ``indulging in excess.'' Virgil eats and drinks with the same swinish abandon as the other members, all male, but gets into trouble when he French-kisses the naked girl who is the motionless table decoration. So begins this story of gastronomic and erotic debauch; Nicholson cuts between England (where Virgil will be kidnapped by the sexy dinner-table centerpiece, then rescued by the God-fearing Butterworth) and California, where Frank, in the course of investigating his wife's supposed infidelity, discovers his prized chef Leo ejaculating into the sauces. Nicholson sustains a tone of campy menace (by now there's a whiff of cannibalism in the air) as he brings all these characters to London in a plot that zigs and zags entertainingly, though with increasing improbability. Even more troubling, though, are the factual accounts of gastronomic and other excesses interspersed throughout. Aside from the borderline tackiness of linking those notorious modern cannibals, the Andean crash survivors, to the high jinks of the club, these passages suggest authorial obsessions run amok. Spicy fare, though some may find the aftertaste disagreeable.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 1993

ISBN: 0-87951-508-2

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1993

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

BAREFOOT

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.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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