A bustling, gossipy, Belva Plain-style chat-up taking place in 1893 Chicago and peopled with some real personalities of the time, who go beyond mere cameo-hood to influence the lives of two women- -one rich and miserable, the other poor and ambitious. Young Josef and Hannah Chernik, of a dirt-poor Russian Jewish immigrant family, visit the 1893 Columbian Exposition where, by lucky chance, Josef can show off his sharpshooting ability at Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show. Meanwhile, also at the World's Fair is lovely Isabelle Woodruff, who's a mere possession, ignored by cold banker husband Phillips, and having no fun at all. Eventually, both Isabelle and Hannah (who never meet) stir to independence—from Phillip (who has some S/M sex on with the maid) and from poverty, respectively. Isabelle begins to be involved with the good work of Hull House, founded by Jane Addams to enrich the lives of the poor, and responds to the courting of lawyer Clarence Darrow, who opens her eyes to the injustices foisted upon working people. At the same time, Hannah sews for slave wages at Marshall Field's, is wooed by a dashing sales manager, becomes pregnant, and then is discarded. Exiled from family, she lands at the brothel of tough-with-heart-of-gold Carrie Watson, and toils in that particular vineyard; later, however, she'll convince Carrie that she has more lasting talent in real-estate investment. (The baby is permanently farmed out.) By now, Josef has moved his parents to the company town of the Pullman Palace Car Company, where there are myriad reasons for the famous strike that follows. Josef is unfairly accused of murder but is defended by Darrow. Throughout, there are savage murders of young women by the Indian Running Wolf, whose own family was just as savagely murdered at Wounded Knee. In a farewell, Cody offers Running Wolf a way home. A good, juicy first novel, rich with gusty scandals, strikes, and show-stoppers.

Pub Date: June 16, 1992

ISBN: 0-688-11223-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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