THE NAKED MADONNA

Former Norwegian publisher Wiese gets into the act himself with his first novel—a strange mishmash that seems to be plotted along the boundary that separates magical realism from hagiography. Most of the action here takes place in church, or hard by. The narrator is a Vatican librarian, not a priest but still very much a man of the Church, whose work with rare manuscripts becomes unexpectantly relevant to contemporary affairs in 1989 when a Perugia church collapses during the ceremony of dedication, killing nearly 700 worshippers. The death count is so high partly as a result of the fame surrounding a Renaissance portrait of the Madonna and Child that hangs over the altar of the church, a portrait that had been discovered by the narrator only a few years before in an out-of-the-way corridor of the Vatican Library. Later, the narrator also discovers a 500-year-old manuscript that recounts the weird and tragic story of the painting's creation, a tale that itself becomes the bulk of the novel. Written by an anonymous 15th- century ``storyteller,'' the manuscript relates how the portrait was the work of an obscure artist's doomed love for his model, a beautiful country girl whose shadowy past was gradually brought to light with calamitous results. The later history of the painting and its owners, laboriously pieced together by the narrator, makes it sound more like the Hope diamond than the PietÖ, and it even begins to exert its curse upon the narrator himself, who manages to figure out what's going on and get out of the way in time. The ending, of course, is the beginning, which seems to be the finale of the Madonna's malevolence. Too spooky for words: The Borges-like intricacies of the narrative, with its spurious manuscripts and intellectual sleuthing, are ill-suited to the tale itself, which is basically a horror story. Subtlety becomes soporific rather than intriguing in this guise.

Pub Date: April 14, 1996

ISBN: 1-86046-025-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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