Not dependent on the award-winning Chronicle (1958), this continues the picaresque experiences of the surviving members of the family, Miss Honora, Coverly and Moses; whose egregious eccentricity was a more prominent feature of the earlier took. While this approach also is a little off center, it is more awry than askew. Miss Honora, indomitable at 70, represents the "surprising abundance of life" but life itself is unaccountable, a "migration" full of random irrelevancies. But there's more to it than just a tilted perspective— Cheever seems to be haunted by what one critic called the "everpresent danger and the half-felt queerness of contemporary existence". Although there may be some escape through the hot certainties of the flesh, there are still the dusty answers— "no cure for autumn, no medicine for the north wind"; loneliness is a constant presence, death an occasional one, and above all there's a certain uneasiness with the world as it is. Less so for Honora whose ancien regime has had a fixed, autocratic authority. But Coverly has gone from the very old to the very new- a missile base with its "promethean powers" and menace. And he is saddened by his failure to bring happiness to Betsy. Moses is still more troubled; his Melissa runs off with a young boy, then to Italy, and leaves him with only the sodden solace of the ottle. The current chronology closes with a farewell to St. Botolph's and Honora.... heever, like Updike, is a loner in modern fiction; sui generis, he is also a special taste. But his admirers will again be fascinated by this new book, unstructured as it may be, with its passionate sense of life, its disconsolate awareness of loss, and its writing, much of which is remarkable, and, a word to be used charily, beautiful.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 1963

ISBN: 0060528885

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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