BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY

Newspaper columnist Fielding’s first effort, a bestseller in Britain, lives up to the hype: This year in the life of a single woman is closely observed and laugh-out-loud funny. Bridget, a thirtysomething with a midlevel publishing job, tempers her self-loathing with a giddy (if sporadic) urge toward self-improvement: Every day she tallies cigarettes smoked, alcohol —units—consumed, and pounds gained or lost. At Una Alconbury’s New Year’s Day Curry Buffet, her parents and their friends hover as she’s introduced to an eligible man, Mark Darcy. Mark is wearing a diamond-patterned sweater that rules him out as a potential lust object, but Bridget’s reflexive rudeness causes her to ruminate on her own undesirability and thus to binge on chocolate Christmas-tree decorations. But in the subsequent days, she cheers herself up with fantasies of Daniel, her boss’s boss, a handsome rogue with an enticingly dissolute air. After a breathless exchange of e-mail messages about the length of her skirt, Daniel asks for her phone number, causing Bridget to crown herself sex goddess. . . until she spends a miserable weekend staring at her silent phone. By chanting “aloof, unavailable ice-queen” to herself, she manages to play it cool long enough to engage Daniel’s interest, but once he’s her boyfriend, he spends Sundays with the shades pulled watching TV—and is quickly unfaithful. Meanwhile, after decades of marriage, her mother acquires a bright orange suntan, moves out of the house, and takes up with a purse-carrying smoothie named Julio. And so on. Bridget navigates culinary disasters, mood swings, and scary publishing parties; she cares for her parents, talks endlessly with her cronies, and maybe, just maybe, hooks up with a nice boyfriend. Fielding’s diarist raises prickly insecurities to an art form, turns bad men into good anecdotes, and shows that it is possible to have both a keen eye for irony and a generous heart. (Film rights to Working Title; author tour)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88072-8

Page Count: 271

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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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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