Delightfully witty, funny, and true-to-life: Leonard’s debut novel should travel better than Guinness.



A rollicking yarn, in the best J.P. Donleavy tradition, about an Irish scribbler on the make, told with wit and style by playwright Leonard (Out After Dark, 1991, etc.).

T.J. (“Thady”) Quill is a happy fixture of the Dublin literary scene. A film buff and reviewer, he gets on well with the small but stylish circle of the city’s thespians. Most of them have to cadge their drinks when they go out, but T.J. has managed to get himself a sweet job on the strength of his reviews: Chief archivist and general director of the Sean O’Fearna Center in Dublin. O’Fearna was an Irish-American director (read: John Ford) known primarily for his westerns. His widow Kitty is known by one and all as a holy terror who could bargain the miter off an archbishop: In exchange for setting the O’Fearna Center up in Dublin, she managed to get Irish citizenship posthumously awarded to her husband. Now she’s taken a shine to T.J. and taps him to write the authorized biography. Can things get any better? Well, nothing attracts like success, and soon T.J. finds himself with a mistress—the beautiful Josie Head, married to the rich wastrel Andrew Head. Even T.J.’s long-faced wife Greta begins to look kindly on her newly successful husband. But there’s no place like Ireland for taking a man down off his high horse. First, the daughter of T.J.’s best friend is seduced and impregnated by Kitty’s godson. Then T.J. gets himself beat up by Andrew. Finally, Kitty finds out about an unauthorized sequel to one of O’Fearna’s films that T.J. has begun to produce behind her back—and fires him on the spot. Back at square one, he has no one to rely on but his wife. But in Ireland, remember, if herself is on your side you’ve not too much to fear.

Delightfully witty, funny, and true-to-life: Leonard’s debut novel should travel better than Guinness.

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-312-29029-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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