Another darkly romantic thriller from Norman (Fascination, 1992; Shattered Stars, 1991, etc.)—a high-glamour journey through the theater worlds of London and New York. On the eve of what's to be her greatest performance—the lead in Hedda Gabler—London stage legend Diana Lancaster dies. Her seven-year-old son, Sebastian, is whisked away from his two playmates, best friend Jeremy and Katharine, a visiting American girl, to begin mourning. But it appears that his grief is not of the unhealthy type, for the boy grows up to be a paragon of virtue, beauty, and intelligence. He is even able bravely to set aside whatever ill memories he has of the stage to start a wildly successful theatrical agency with Jeremy, now a sinisterly bisexual bad seed. Yet Sebastian is not entirely the golden boy. There are certain disquieting mysteries from his past, one of them having to do with a lipstick, poisoned with hydrochloric acid, said to have been used by the lead in a production of Hedda Gabler. And although he practically has to beat women away, Sebastian just can't seem to fall in love. Reenter Katharine, now a brilliant, amber-eyed set designer. The two marry, return to England, have sex often, and drink lots of good champagne. Things change, however, once the couple move into Sebastian's childhood home—and his parents' former bedroom. He begins to have strange headaches; his lovemaking takes on an alarming twist. Soon, Sebastian insists that Katharine switch careers—from set design to acting. This insistence turns to obsession and something far worse when a new production of Hedda Gabler comes to London—and Katharine finds herself understudying for the lead role. The lovers often seem more cloying than passionate, and the prose sometimes clunks like a square-wheeled cart—but Norman tells a good story, complete with likable characters and luxurious sets.

Pub Date: July 8, 1993

ISBN: 0-525-93621-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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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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