Dribbling sentiment, square-wheeled characters of absolute nobility, and puffs of historical personalities: those are the dubious attractions of this Denker clanker about a brace of married doctors, mainly in the US, 1848-1885. In spite of difficulties facing Jews in 19th-century Vienna, David Lilliendahl presses on to finish his medical studies with distinction; then, however, his participation in a student revolutionary-movement will send him to America. And, though armed with the knowledge he acquired while assisting the great medical pioneer Semmelweis (who found the cause of puerperal fever), David is also burdened with the dread of being called upon to perform surgery—a task at which, in an emergency, he has once failed. Meanwhile, New York WASP Mary Sinclair becomes one of the first students of the Philadelphia Female Medical School, then attends (as the only woman student) the École de MÉdecine of Paris. So, eventually, Mary and David will meet during a Manhattan anti-slavery riot—and soon are both appointed to Jews Hospital. They marry; Mary, in spite of her father's horror, is drawn to Judaism, converting: "The long and tragic history of a people ennobled by sacrifice and suffering began to affect her." When Civil War comes, David will serve in the Union Army in Virginia: he loses his fear of surgery in the midst of the under-supplied hospital camaraderie and a nightmare of death. (He even fraternizes with the enemy—when a Confederate Colonel surprises him with: "Bist du ein yid?") Reunited, and the parents of young Davey, Mary and David continue their fight for progressive medicine; in private and hospital practice they cope with cholera, diphtheria, and TB. And though Mary has a nervous breakdown when they lose son Davey, after the birth of Amos, to diphtheria, Dr. Abraham Jacobi comes to the rescue with good sense and dream analysis: Mary returns to her work, joining David in the crusades for pasteurized milk and sweatshop reform. . . and so on through the years. Denker (Outrage, The Actress, etc.) combines two tried-and-true commercial genres here: doctor heroics and Jewish-family history. Along with Semmelweis, he tosses in such guest-star giants as Lister, Koch, and Pasteur—who says: "I think we. . . are selected by God to make our personal human sacrifices on the altar of medical ignorance." But, while some readers will be drawn by the subject-matter appeal, they'll soon discover that—with little convincing period ambience, only a smidgin of real medical history, and dull, dull people—this is one doctor-novel that's generally anesthetic.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 1982

ISBN: 038067405X

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1982

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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