A SPANISH LOVER

Love comes late but abundantly to Frances, long pitied by her twin sister and her family for always being an also-ran. Like her illustrious ancestor, Trollope (The Choir, 1995, etc.) is a clear-eyed recorder of the sudden domestic tempests that roil even the most placid backwaters of English life, tempests fueled by the ties of family affection and habit. As the family gathers for Christmas at the lovingly restored Georgian house of Lizzie and Robert in a village near Bath, long-simmering discontents and new threats from the outside appear to threaten both Lizzie's marriage and her relationship with twin sister Frances. Lizzie, the dominant twin, seems to have it all: a beautiful home, four healthy children, and a loving husband with whom she is a partner in a successful gallery and design shop. Frances, on the other hand, has drifted through life pitied by Lizzie for not fulfilling her potential. Though she owns a prospering travel business, Frances, now in her late 30s, is unmarried, and she resents Lizzie's sympathy, which she finds condescending. But when Frances meets and falls in love with Luis Moreno, a married Spanish businessman, Lizzie is ashamed and surprised by her envious reaction to Frances's happiness. While Frances's love affair unfolds, Lizzie's secure life crumbles: The recession hurts her business; she quarrels with Robert; they lose their house; and she has to take a dull secretarial job to bring in money. Frances's decision to have Luis's baby and live in Spain as a single mother brings Lizzie's long-buried envy of the newly independent Frances to a head. The sisters clash, and Frances in turn helps Lizzie admit her jealousy and self-pity. Life improves for Lizzie and Robert, while Frances turns to face new challenges, confidently, with no regrets. A wonderfully wise and bracingly honest novel that celebrates happiness and the good, quiet things that sustain the human spirit. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-42586-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1996

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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