After making waves with her 1992 debut, Life-Size, the chronicle of an anorexic, Shute returns with a different, no less discomfiting tale of obsession, this time involving a woman so hopelessly in love that she blinds her erstwhile boyfriend. The deed is done before the story opens, with Christine Chandler, tagged in the tabloids as the Boston Fury, telling her own version of events for her lawyer's benefit as her trial looms. A driven 38-year-old attorney (Harvard Law, magna cum laude) specializing in immigration cases, Chris has never had much luck with relationships; when the much younger Scott, an unsuccessful ex-musician turned fledgling photographer, comes on to her at a New Year's Eve party, at first she doubts he'll be any different. She takes him to bed anyway, then calls him up to arrange future encounters in which body language does most of the talking. It isn't long, then, before they're seriously involved. But there's a problem, of course: Scott's live-in, who just happens to be on a yearlong assignment in Seoul. He still calls her regularly, making Chris insanely jealous, and after a few flare-ups followed by desperate reconciliations, the sex gets rougher, the rules get bent, and she discovers that both her self-esteem and her control are gone. Numb but still functioning, she moves to protect herself after a particularly brutal night, but one last confrontation in her apartment is still to occur—and the jury will be out a long time determining who was to blame for what eventually happened. While the effort to get inside the head of one so disturbed at times seems heavily stylized and clinical, there's no denying that this sexy fable of modernity exposes emotions that many might rather ignore. (Literary Guild and Doubleday book club selections)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-385-48504-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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