A masterfully written exploration of the beauty and cruelty of love, as sharp as it is sensual.

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BETWEEN BODIES LIE

A disillusioned writer travels to the tropics in search of inspiration in Blanc’s emotionally astute debut novel.

Cristobal Porter is a British writer whose work is in decline. With each novel garnering less critical acclaim than the last, the author spends more time looking out of windows than he does writing. Badgered by his publisher and tormented by a difficult first relationship following the death of his wife, he retreats to an unnamed island in the tropics, where civil unrest lurks beneath the surface of everyday life. On his arrival, Porter uneasily slips into society following his introduction to the slick yet lascivious American diplomat, Jack Kaplan. Kaplan’s wife, the enigmatic Ana, is a patron of the arts, and Porter finds himself lingering at the edge of her cocktail party, staring at the backs of artists and well-heeled expats. While Kaplan dismisses the art scene, Ana finds a kindred spirit in Porter, and a bond tentatively forms between them. Porter goes about his book research but is almost immediately encumbered by the unannounced arrival of Nadia, his dangerously seductive young mistress. As his yearning for Ana grows stronger, Porter recognizes a growing intimacy between Nadia and Kaplan. When Ana finally learns of her husband’s affair, she draws Porter closer, but a tragic secret from her past rocks their budding relationship. As the plot unfolds, the whispers of uprising grow louder. Blanc is supremely sensitive to the trials and tribulations of the creative process; he writes with the wisdom of an established author grown weary of the literary scene. Some readers may consider the depiction of an emotionally disheveled yet unconventionally dashing novelist to be somewhat clichéd, but that thought is far outweighed by Blanc’s brilliantly detailed study of human connections and disconnections, in which even the most indiscernible movements of body, mind and heart are painstakingly recognized and charted.

A masterfully written exploration of the beauty and cruelty of love, as sharp as it is sensual.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477269114

Page Count: 346

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU

Two erudite Irishwomen struggle with romance against the backdrop of the Trump/Brexit years.

Eileen and Alice have been friends since their university days. Now in their late 20s, Eileen works as an editorial assistant at a literary magazine in Dublin. Alice is a famous novelist recovering from a psychiatric hospitalization and staying in a large empty rectory on the west coast of Ireland. Since Alice’s breakdown, the two have kept in touch primarily through lengthy emails that alternate between recounting their romantic lives and working through their angst about the current social and political climate. (In one of these letters, Eileen laments that the introduction of plastic has ruined humanity’s aesthetic calibration and in the next paragraph, she’s eager to know if Alice is sleeping with the new man she’s met.) Eileen has spent many years entangled in an occasionally intimate friendship with her teenage crush, a slightly older man named Simon who is a devout Catholic and who works in the Irish Parliament as an assistant. As Eileen and Simon’s relationship becomes more complicated, Alice meets Felix, a warehouse worker who is unsure what to make of her fame and aloofness. In many ways, this book, a work of both philosophy and romantic tragicomedy about the ways people love and hurt one another, is exactly the type of book one would expect Rooney to write out of the political environment of the past few years. But just because the novel is so characteristic of Rooney doesn’t take anything away from its considerable power. As Alice herself puts it, “Humanity on the cusp of extinction [and] here I am writing another email about sex and friendship. What else is there to live for?”

A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-60260-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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A SLOW FIRE BURNING

A young man has been stabbed to death on a houseboat...that much is clear.

Hawkins' third novel, after her smash debut with The Girl on the Train (2015) and a weak follow-up with Into the Water (2017), gets off to a confusing start. A series of vignettes introduce numerous characters—Irene, Deidre, Laura, Miriam, Daniel (dead), Carla, Theo, Angela (dead)—all of whom live or lived in a very small geographical area and have overlapping connections and reasons to be furious at each other. We can all agree that the main question is who killed Daniel, the 23-year-old on the houseboat, but it is soon revealed that his estranged mother had died just a few weeks earlier—a drunk who probably fell, but maybe was pushed, down the stairs—and his cousin also fell to his death some years back. Untimely demise runs in the family. The highlight of these goings-on is Laura, a tiny but ferocious young woman who was seen running from Daniel's boat with blood on her mouth and clothes the last night he was alive. Physically and mentally disabled by an accident in her childhood, Laura is so used to being accused and wronged (and actually she is quite the sticky fingers) that she's not surprised when she's hauled in for Daniel's murder, though she's pretty sure she didn't do it. The secondary crimes and subplots include abduction, sexual assault, hit-and-run, petty larceny, plagiarism, bar brawling, breaking and entering, incest, and criminal negligence, and on top of all this there's a novel within a novel that mirrors events recalled in flashback by one of the characters. When Irene reads it, she's infuriated by "all the to-ing and fro-ing, all that jumping around in the timeline....Just start at the beginning, for god's sake. Why couldn't people just tell a story straight any longer, start to finish?" Hmmmmm.

Overkill.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1123-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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