THE RAIDERS

It's 34 years since The Carpetbaggers ignited Robbins's fame, but the familiar scandals, sex, and skulduggery in this late- breaking sequel have cooled to room temperature. Jonas Cord Jr., whose tumultuous relationship with his father ended lovelessly in The Carpetbaggers, by the 1950s has become the Jonas Cord—rich and powerful. Though he has an 18-year-old daughter, Jonas vows to tell his son (should he ever happen to have one) that he loves him. Surprise! Enter his bastard boy, whose mother, elegant wife of a Cuban statesman, Jonas had deflowered and then spurned when she was an ingenue. Jonas Enrique Raul Cord y Batista—Bart for short—is already a brilliant WW II vet-Harvard- grad-lawyer-polyglot-blond-hunk when he meets Dad, who is determined to add heir and businessman to Junior's list of credits. Bart begins to dip his toe into Jonas's dealings, and before you know it he's up to his neck in Mafia-entangled hotel casino deals, entertainment industry high jinks, and messy family politics. Bart discovers that, like his father, he has a taste for sex, money, power, and conflict. So the two go head to head in round after repetitive round of nervous parent vs. rebellious adolescent: Bart has affair with actress, Dad has affair with her competition; Bart launches loser TV variety show, Dad complains he's botching the job; Bart restructures company, Dad cries sabotage; Dad tells Bart to marry longtime classy girlfriend Toni Maxim, Bart says MYOB. Appearances by such real-lifers as Jack Kennedy (with whom Toni sleeps), Che Guevera, Jimmy Hoffa, Tallulah Bankhead, and Danny Kaye add some spice and historical context. Despite clashes in arenas like the corporate shark tank and the gnarled family tree, there is not much bracing conflict here. But generous doses of heavy breathing and heaving buttocks will likely provide solace for Robbins's stalwart fans. If only the plot were as impressively hung as the men.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-671-87289-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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