Despite the exotic setting, the real jewels are the glimpses of a determined narrator who is not afraid to take the lead...

RIDING THE ASIAN DRAGON

EXTRAORDINARY LIVES OF ORDINARY PEOPLE

A female backpacker describes her solo adventures traveling through Asia in this densely packed debut memoir.

While planning a yearlong sabbatical, Boulet was unexpectedly laid off from her job in Great Britain. She decided to skip some of her trip preparations, including learning basic Chinese, so she could start her round-the-world trip less than a week later. After a month in South America, she moved on to Asia, the memoir’s focus. Traveling through Hong Kong, China, Tibet, Mongolia, Nepal, India, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, Boulet sought out remote areas unspoiled by tourism. To save money she stayed in huts, family homes, hostels and run-down hotels and traveled spontaneously via a mixture of trains, buses and private vehicles. Surprisingly, it was her transportation choices that proved to be the most dangerous aspects of her trip. Throughout the book, Boulet focuses on her connections with fellow travelers and locals. A Tibetan man merits his own chapter, and a few others appear in the epilogue, but most are brief, one-time episodes. Even shocking encounters, such as a monk who asked her to take a 4-year-old to India so he can have an education, merit a single paragraph. The summarized conversations, along with a penchant for passive voice and a huge volume of detail on every tiny village and temple, make for dense, slow reading. Luckily, Boulet is livelier than her writing. She bravely hiked to the Mount Everest base camp in adverse conditions. She agreed to drive a motorcycle for the first time—at night on Cambodian roads filled with cows, chickens and enormous potholes. She showed ingenuity when she ran short of money in Laos, and compassion when she helped a young postcard vendor.

Despite the exotic setting, the real jewels are the glimpses of a determined narrator who is not afraid to take the lead role in her astonishing adventures.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463779764

Page Count: 265

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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