THE DANCING GIRL

The first known modern Indian novel, now abridged and translated into English, is a beguiling tale of love and life under the more tolerant British Raj of the 18th century. Written in 1790, in a strikingly realistic form that emphasizes dialogue over action, the largely autobiographical tale is narrated by Hasan shah, a descendant of a famous Mogul family who's now employed as clerk to a British officer and Member of Council at Cawnpore. Reflecting the more relaxed customs of the period, when the British often adopted the local culture, Hasan's employer, locally known as Ming Saheb, ``belongs to the breed of large-hearted, bold and adventurous Englishmen'' and puts Hasan ``solely in charge of his business.'' It's a charge that includes arranging performances of dancing girls, the famous nautch girls, and providing a mistress. And it is the arrival of these dancing girls, a class famous as much for their beauty and talent as for their availability as courtesans, that occasions the tragic romance of Hasan's life. While riding out on business, he is invited to meet the recently arrived troupe, and is instantly smitten with the beautiful but feisty Khanum Jan, who has vowed never to be a courtesan. Ming Saheb is persuaded to employ the girls, which enables the lovers to meet secretly, declare their passion, and eventually marry—also secretly. But their love is doomed: the army is ordered to leave Cawnpore; the dancing troupe must look for work elsewhere; and, though Hasan arranges to meet Khanum downriver and take her away as his wife, he is fatally delayed by his official commitments. Khanum falls ill and dies, and the grieving Hasan, affirming that ``love is superior in honor and unique in contentment,'' will never forget her. A charming and agreeably accessible portrait of a unique culture in a lyrically realized period setting—as well as an affecting love story. A multicultural plus.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 1993

ISBN: 0-8112-1265-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1993

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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