Whatever the novel lacks in terms of literary depth or character development it makes up for in laughs.

READ REVIEW

AMAZING DISGRACE

A British satirical novel skewers celebrity autobiographies, environmental activism and the idyllic life in Tuscany.

Introduced previously, in Cooking with Fernet Branca (2004), Gerald Samper returns with his flamboyant wit and self-absorption undiminished. He also retains a flair for the offbeat recipe, instructing the reader on the preparation of Death Roe and Badger Wellington with hallucinogenic mushrooms. Samper’s comic voice permeates and dominates this novel, where the other characters are mainly caricatures and the plot has a spirit of slapdash serendipity. Narrated in the present tense, as if Samper is experiencing as he is writing, the story concerns his latest ghostwriting project, Millie!, the memoir of a plucky, intrepid, one-armed grandmother who has set a record for sailing around the world (“single-handedly”). Though hailed as a heroine in her native Britain and throughout much of the nautical world, Millie Cleat is actually a foul-mouthed, difficult woman who has a penchant for leaving trouble in her wake. Samper must mediate between the truth as he sees it and the story Millie wants told. He also must do his best to torpedo the possibility of a sequel with this impossible woman. He’s much more interested in another project, the biography of a gifted conductor, though the subject is reluctant and the commercial prospects aren’t nearly as great. Subplots include Samper’s experimentation with male enhancement pills and the hilariously embarrassing consequences, and the mystery of the disappearance of his neighbor in Tuscany, which inspires all sorts of observations about the cutthroat Tuscan real-estate market and those who succumb to this fantasy of the good life. For a man of such refined sensibility, Samper suffers through a series of disgraces concerning bodily functions. The plot reaches its improbable climax at his 50th birthday party, though he has insisted that he’s just on the cusp of 40.

Whatever the novel lacks in terms of literary depth or character development it makes up for in laughs.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-933372-19-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

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

Did you like this book?

ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more