Preparing her defense against a slander suit after she unthinkingly identifies a landed financier as having been a Fifth Columnist during the war, novelist Anne Medlicott—whose sharp, unsparing self-portrait makes her seem a lot like her gifted author- -doesn't realize how dramatically her research will change her knowledge of her family, her oldest friends, and herself. Although the man she slanders is the father of artist Perdita Whitchurch, whom she knew briefly as a student in her school, Anne's most important revelations come from Celia Roget, posted to the Foreign Office in Berlin in 1936. As Celia is drawn into the circle of Baron Hubertus von Beowulf and his sister Marianne following Hitler's p.r. triumph at the Berlin Games, she gradually realizes the peril faced by her parents' old friends the Silberschmidts, who are harassed and arrested as Jews. Celia's school friend Lotte manages to escape the dragnet that scoops up her brother Michael, Celia's first love, and his mother—only to end up stranded with the Berlin underground, while Michael ends up with relatives in Bayswater, where he attempts to marry, raise a family, and return periodically and secretly to Germany, finally vanishing after going back to retrieve Lotte. Celia, meanwhile, is present when the Gestapo arrests Lotte, leaving Celia literally holding the newborn baby she claims Hubertus has fathered, and determining to raise it as her own. The pattern of romantic and political betrayals—and the question of whether Perdita's father really has been a traitor—won't be cleared up until Anne's face-to- face meeting back in 1991 with Celia, who'll confirm the revelations that will neatly close off Anne's investigation while destroying her self-assured certainties and freeing her to create herself anew. Mann—who, like Anne, is best known as the author of a well- received, dispassionate series of detective stories (Faith, Hope and Homicide, etc.)—re-creates herself brilliantly in this mystery/intrigue counterpart to Philip Roth's self-tormenting autobiographical fictions.

Pub Date: June 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-88184-943-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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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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