This novel is depressing too; the reader is trapped within the consciousness of the narrator just as the narrator is trapped...

MUNICH AIRPORT

A grim parable of familial disconnect and purposeless existence set in a fog-bound German airport over one very long day.

After his critically acclaimed fiction debut (The Apartment, 2012), Baxter has raised the level of difficulty with his second novel—for himself and for the reader. There are no chapter breaks, and a paragraph can go on for pages. The entire novel takes place inside the head of an unnamed narrator who seems matter-of-fact at first but who descends through levels of emotional disturbance (recurring nightmares, panic attacks, self-laceration and other compulsions) as the tale progresses. And yet the tale never really progresses but keeps circling through memory and projection as the narrator spends a day’s eternity in the titular airport with his father, waiting to accompany his younger sister's corpse back to America. The sister, who had had little contact with either her brother or father since moving to Berlin, died of starvation. The narrator has also had little contact with his father since moving to London, where he had a brief, unhappy marriage with a woman he never names (other memories involve characters whose names he says he has forgotten) and left corporate employment for his own marketing consultancy business. Father and son have very little to say to each other, but a third character, Trish from the American Consulate, serves as a connection between the two and adds what little plot development there is. Mostly, the narrator suffers: “The light turns sickly. I start to shake. My mouth starts to water. A sickness that feels a little like nostalgia sets in. Then I begin to see the words I am thinking, individual words, and they become repulsive. A word like blue becomes repulsive. A word like airport. Their existence is depressing.”

This novel is depressing too; the reader is trapped within the consciousness of the narrator just as the narrator is trapped within his life.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4555-5795-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

This new Baldwin novel is told by a 19-year-old black girl named Tish in a New York City ghetto about how she fell in love with a young black man, Fonny. He got framed on a rape charge and she got pregnant before they could marry and move into their loft; but Tish and her family Finance a trip to Puerto Rico to track down the rape victim and rescue Fonny, a sculptor with slanted eyes and treasured independence. The book is anomalous for the 1970's with its Raisin in the Sun wholesomeness. It is sometimes saccharine, but it possesses a genuinely sweet and free spirit too. Along with the reflex sprinkles of hate-whitey, there are powerful showdowns between the two black families, and a Frieze of people who — unlike Fonny's father — gave up and "congregated on the garbage heaps of their lives." The style wobbles as Tish mixes street talk with lyricism and polemic and a bogus kind of Young Adult hesitancy. Baldwin slips past the conflict between fighting the garbage heap and settling into a long-gone private chianti-chisel-and-garret idyll, as do Fonny and Tish and the baby. But Baldwin makes the affirmation of the humanity of black people which is all too missing in various kinds of Superfly and sub-fly novels.

Pub Date: May 24, 1974

ISBN: 0307275930

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974

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