Kawakami's novel treats its feminist themes with a light hand but still slyly lands its points.

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THE TEN LOVES OF NISHINO

Kawakami (Record of a Night Too Brief, 2017, etc.) explores desire and the elusive nature of love through the voices of 10 women who all loved the same man, Nishino Yukihiko, at different points in their lives and his.

The title character remains a cipher, but the women who memorialize him are vividly rendered individuals and together form a lively spectrum of female desire. In 10 chapters from 10 different characters' points of view, the women remember aspects of Nishino's life, from the return of his ghost to his awkward adolescence to his womanizing days from his 20s to late middle age. It's unclear exactly what Nishino looks like or even does for a living—some kind of white-collar work for a company. But in a sly turn by Kawakami, the somewhat feckless Nishino is mostly a catalyst for the women to explore their own feelings of sensuality and sexuality. The women in this collection are vibrant, lusty, and clearly the agents of their own love lives. For example, Natsumi, who carried on an affair with Nishino while married to another man, decides, "I may not have liked him, but I was in love with Nishino" and remembers fondly the odd way he pronounced "parfait." Manami, a businesswoman, declares proudly that Nishino was three years younger and her subordinate at work when she embarked on an affair with him. When she breaks up with him, he asks her to marry him, but she walks away. Kawakami is the winner of multiple awards in her native Japan, including the Akutagawa and Women Writers (Joryu Bungako Sho) prizes.

Kawakami's novel treats its feminist themes with a light hand but still slyly lands its points.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60945-533-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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