Brilliant, passionately rendered reportage.

PYONGYANG

A JOURNEY IN NORTH KOREA

The true story of French animator Delisle’s two-month gig in North Korea.

The author accepted an assignment to work with a team of North Koreans hired to draw a cartoon series. This graphic novel depicts his time there, mostly in the capital city. Delisle stays at one of the three hotels in Pyongang permitted to take foreign guests. The 50-story Yangakkdo is mostly empty; the only floor with its lights turned on is the one with foreigners on it. Accompanied everywhere by at least one or two government assigned “guides,” the animator sees pretty much only what the powers that be want him to see. Even that limited view, however, reveals a fascistic and surreal landscape: a “phantom city in a hermit nation.” Delisle is a good guide through this overly ordered world. He genuinely likes the North Koreans and has no ideological axe to grind; he brings along Orwell to read, but doesn’t let it restrict his thinking. His sharp eye captures many telling details: a monstrously luxurious subway station (marble walls, chandeliers) that seems to be only for show; the empty restaurants; the “volunteer” civilians obsessively cleaning everywhere he looks; and always the passionate reverence for Kim Jong Il, whose portrait hangs “in every room, on every floor, in every building” throughout the land.

Brilliant, passionately rendered reportage.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-8965970-89-0

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more