Should help to consolidate Grøndahl’s following among English-speaking readers.

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AN ALTERED LIGHT

A marriage crumbles after 30 years, allowing the wife to find her own identity at last in this elegiac, maturely affecting work from the masterly Danish novelist (Lucca, 2003, etc.).

The discovery of a conversation recorded by accident (or was it?) on their phone machine between her banker husband, Martin, and his lover, Susanne, does not surprise 56-year-old Irene Beckman, a Copenhagen divorce lawyer. Apparently she never loved Martin, nor did she dwell that much on her marriage, being of a rather skeptical, diffident nature. She even enjoyed an affair of her own some years back. Irene says nothing, until sometime later when Martin announces at the dinner table in front of their grown children, Josephine and Peter, that he’s going to live with the other woman. Curiously, their marriage is the last to disintegrate among their crowd, who lived through a turbulent, revolutionary era. Nonetheless, Irene feels bewildered and angry. With Martin’s exit, she’s finally forced to try to understand herself, further prodded by a notebook thrust upon her by her hospitalized mother, Vivian. Written just after the birth of Irene and her twin brother (who died), the notebook reveals that Irene’s real father is a Russian-Jewish cellist named Samuel Balkin, who left for Sweden during WWII and didn’t return until after Vivian had married someone else. Unhinged by her “strange sense of freedom,” Irene sets off by car to search for Balkin in Vienna, where a strange, bittersweet reunion ensues. Grøndahl makes some lengthy, sinuous digressions into various tertiary characters’ backgrounds and suggests a bit heavy-handedly that Irene has subconsciously sought her twin in her lovers. Yet by the end of this quietly emotive, intelligent work, the reader is exhausted and transformed.

Should help to consolidate Grøndahl’s following among English-speaking readers.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-15-101043-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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

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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

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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

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