A charming tale sure to delight book lovers.



Raised on Edith Wharton and Sherlock Holmes novels, shy Ava Gallanter has found a home as the librarian for the eccentric and dusty Lazarus Club. Nestled amid vintage furniture and books, she's hoping to finally write her own 18th-century novel.

Unfortunately, so far her characters simply stare out of windows and at the floor. Ava realizes she has to make something happen not only for her fictional Agustin and Anastasia, but also for herself. Luckily, her vivacious friend Stephanie returns to town, spies a hidden door in Ava’s library, and the two discover a secret room. Hoping to shake off her Nebraska roots and gain some glamour, Stephanie convinces Ava to renovate the room and open a private literary club. Entranced by the possibilities, Ava eagerly christens the salon The Little Clan, in honor of her beloved Proust, but Stephanie renames it The House of Mirth despite Ava's warnings that the name will bring bad luck. The hidden room turns out to be the perfect place to host parties straight out of The Great Gatsby. Funding is a problem precariously dependent on Stephanie's ability to mesmerize venture capitalists who may someday bring in the necessary funds—and until then, Ava can rack up debt on her very first credit card. Soon enough Ava has fallen for Ben—a talented artist Stephanie convinces to build a beautiful bar for the club but never pays—and the parties arouse the ire of the Lazarus Club’s elderly members. Debut novelist Cohen has concocted a delightful domestic drama: Enigmatic Ben, irrepressible Stephanie, and lots of quirky characters surround Ava, whose mind is a fascinating place to visit as she learns to bring her love for all things literary into a world of shallow readers.

A charming tale sure to delight book lovers.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1282-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Park Row Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.


The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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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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