PLAYING THE GAME

A first novel from Buruma (Behind the Mask, 1984; God's Dust, 1989)—superficially about that most British of games, cricket, and one of its legendary players, but also a somewhat self-conscious and awkward meditation on nationality and cultural identity. The narrator, like Buruma, was born and educated in Holland and is a journalist specializing in East Asia. In India on assignment, he finds himself increasingly drawn to investigating the life of the great Indian cricketer K.S. Ranjitsinhji, the Jam Saheb of Nawanagar, who played for Cambridge and England at the turn of the century. By all accounts, ""Ranji"" was an exceptional man: of royal blood, he was a favorite of the fans, generous to his friends, a player of both natural and practiced accomplishment, and accepted in England's highest society at the time when racial prejudice and snobbery about other cultures were rampant. These broad details of Ranji's life are revealed in an obvious and artificial way in letters conveniently discovered by the narrator and allegedly written by Ranji to his old friend and teammate C.B. Fry. Equally awkward are the interludes between the letters—where the narrator relates his interviews with those in India who knew Ranji, and his discussions with an opinionated young man, Inder, who was educated in England. In these discussions, Ranji is both the measure of the possibilities of cultural assimilation and of its limits. Ranji, the prince who believed in the Empire, was in fact betrayed in his last years when the British, responding to Indian nationalists, began paring the power of the princes. He died a sad and disappointed man, out of step with his times and his place. Intelligent and thoughtful, but the ideas and questions raised don't really sit well with the story of the shadowy and elusive cricketer. An ambitious but disappointing debut.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-374-23452-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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