A compelling romance buttressed by engaging, likable protagonists and vivid historical detail.



A couple’s burgeoning romance is tested by the collapse of their government in Soukup’s historical novel.

In June 1970, Michal Sedmy leaves Prague for a bus tour of Yugoslavia. The bus tour is a ruse, part of a carefully constructed plan to defect to Canada where he will join his wife, Danna, and adopted daughter, Lenka. The 1968 Soviet invasion hobbled Michal’s and Danna’s lives and careers, and defecting to Canada is an opportunity for freedom. It will also provide a chance for them to live openly as a married couple. When they met, both were in disintegrating marriages. For years, Michal struggled to make his marriage to Zora work for the sake of their three children, and Danna’s relationship with her husband, Ivan, grew distant after the birth of Lenka. Michal and Danna met while working for the Research Institute of Mining. A collegial relationship turned romantic, and their marriages crumbled as Czechoslovakia fell apart. A fellowship in Canada provides an opportunity for Michal to lay the groundwork for a new life in Canada for himself, Danna, and Lenka, but it comes with risk of arrest in his home country. Told in four parts, each corresponding to a symphonic movement, Soukup weaves an intricate tale with a strong narrative framework. Michal’s relationship with Danna unfolds via flashbacks before the novel transitions to his dangerous journey to Canada. Along the way, Soukup introduces a well-developed cast of supporting characters. In addition, abundant detail on life in Czechoslovakia before and after the Soviet invasion provides a wealth of context for Michal and Danna’s decisions. The domestic drama is as intense as the political situation in Prague.

A compelling romance buttressed by engaging, likable protagonists and vivid historical detail.

Pub Date: June 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482547559

Page Count: 392

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

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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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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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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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