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Featherlight touches and resonant phrasing have been Berger's stock in trade through his extensive career as novelist and critic (To the Wedding, 1995, etc.). This collection of short fictions (many, apparently, drawing heavily on the particulars of Berger's long life) is no exception, though these vignettes are colored with a pervasive melancholy that works as often to their detriment as to their advantage. "Sometimes it seems that, like an ancient Greek, I write mostly about the dead and earth." This sentiment, which begins "A Friend Talking," a short, poignant piece on the death of an artist in Paris, typifies the air of bittersweet remembrance cloaking the book as a whole. Another friend, a survivor of the Gulag living outside of Paris in a Le Corbusier house, is being forced in old age to leave the home where his mother waited for 14 years for him to return from Siberia ("A House Designed by Le Corbusier"). A visit with photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson triggers a wide-ranging conversation on art and images ("A Man Begging in the M‚tro"), while a visit in high summer to an artist living in Galicia ("Sheets of Paper Laid on the Grass") involves looking at her primordial mollusc-inspired drawings, which invoke the work of Paul Klee. Other visits range from a trip to the Italian hills to see the crumbling ancestral home outside of which a friend's mother has recently planted a single jasmine, to yet more visits with painters, usually friends of long acquaintance. The cumulative effect of these special events, both sad and satisfying, is a gentle yet persistent distancing, a refinement of memory's moments into acts of archetypal sharing. With so clear a focus on death and detachment, it's hard not to see this collection as a sort of letting go—though not, one hopes, a cap on the career of so keen an observer and grandly gifted a writer.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-43525-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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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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