Not likely to find many fans this side of the Atlantic.


Debut fiction (published in 1994 in England) from the megaselling author of Bridget Jones novels, this about an African refugee camp volunteer who enlists her glamorous London friends for a celebrity benefit.

Rosie Richardson is a young literary publicist, naive to a fault and madly in love with Oliver Marchant, a handsome cad who hosts a well-regarded BBC show on the arts, when she first volunteers for SUSTAIN (a famine relief agency). Heartbroken over Oliver’s refusal to make a commitment, and fed up with his selfishness and terribly, terribly controlling behavior about important things like her nondesigner clothing, Rosie heads for Africa, determined to do something about the starving innocents caught in the crossfire of yet another civil war. She returns to London somewhat sadder and wiser, but volunteers again several years later. Many ironic cultural misunderstandings ensue, and, of course, there is all that messy dying to cope with. But cope Rosie does, along with a predictable cast of supporting others: Henry, a raffish and oversexed aide, who charms the khaki pants off Sian, a pretty nurse, when not being chided by Dr. Betty, a saintly older woman who is soon replaced by a love interest for Rosie—Robert O’Rourke, a dedicated and selfless physician. All well and good, but Rosie seems to view the unspeakable tragedy of mass starvation as a mere backdrop for her own decidedly minor problems of unrequited love and general anomie. Meanwhile, the people she’s come to help are seen mostly as dirty, fatalistic, and—worst—utterly impractical. When famine strikes again, though, Rosie gets the sort of remorseful Oliver to corral some famous folk for an international benefit and save the day. Sort of. Fielding’s heroine may not share the overt racism of the relief agency’s press rep, who hopes to introduce “the notion of the learned African person . . . thirsting for knowledge to replace what we call the Starving Monkey Myth,” but Rosie is unpleasantly condescending all too often. And the contrast between London’s media elite—the chattering classes, and how—and the mute suffering of the famine’s helpless victims makes for heavy-handed satire at best.

Not likely to find many fans this side of the Atlantic.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-89450-8

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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