One need not be an Anglophile to enjoy the heroine’s London adventures, but it definitely adds to the overall experience.

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London Belongs To Me

An aspiring playwright, fresh out of college, moves to the city of her dreams in this debut novel.

After an inauspicious arrival, including delayed baggage, a sudden downpour, and cramped living quarters, Alexandra “Alex” Sinclair settles into a routine of sorts in London. Still, the Emory University graduate battles with occasional panic attacks as she navigates the ups and downs of living abroad, including an economical housing arrangement that sparks many complications. She hopes to deepen her relationship with her father, who returned to his native England after divorcing her mother many years ago. But Alex also desperately wants to make it on her own, without financial assistance from him, so she seeks employment opportunities that will allow her the flexibility to work on her writing projects. Eventually, she will face a blatant case of plagiarism and other acts of sabotage, so she is fortunate to rely on the support of relatives and friends, principally Lucy, a former online acquaintance, and Lucy’s sidekick, Freddie. They both share Alex’s obsessions with Doctor Who, Sherlock, and the like. Will Alex ultimately make some real progress with a love interest? Will her chief antagonist finally receive a richly deserved comeuppance? Undoubtedly, Middleton’s novel is a love letter to London. As such, it goes a bit overboard in its effusive style and passionate outbursts, but the underlying sentiment remains sweet and contagious. At times, the author is overly fond of clunky similes and unlikely coincidences. For instance, Alex’s accidental reunion with Lucy (with whom she had lost contact) is one of the plot mechanisms that strains credibility, though most of them involve her encounters with a potential suitor. Middleton sometimes risks venturing into the realm of torrid, bodice-ripping romance novels, as in this overwrought passage: “Friday’s kiss and the possibility of seeing him today kept her awake last night, teasing and tormenting her; the ache for him still constant, it warmed her like a fever that wouldn’t break.” Still, despite these minor drawbacks, chances are that even the most skeptical or cynical readers will surrender to the many delights of this compelling narrative. Prepare to be seduced by engaging characters, irresistible in their own quirky way, and transported by keen descriptions of the sights, sounds, and tastes of London (plus two side trips to Manchester).

One need not be an Anglophile to enjoy the heroine’s London adventures, but it definitely adds to the overall experience.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9952117-1-1

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Kirkwall Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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