When this satire bites, it hurts.

READ REVIEW

MAY CONTAIN NUTS

A NOVEL OF EXTREME PARENTING

It’s never wrong to do too much for your kids, right?

The over-anxious parent has been documented quite widely in nonfiction over the past decade, but British comic author O’Farrell (This Is Your Life, 2004, etc.) takes on this unseemly phenomenon from a fiction angle. While he doesn’t turn these demanding drill sergeants into the monsters often depicted in tut-tutting magazine articles, neither does he try hard to humanize them. Narrator Alice is, to put it mildly, an overprotective mom. Concerned about the cars that come roaring down her fashionable London street at all hours, she decides to teach the drivers a lesson by crafting a crude mockup of a child, putting it on a stick, and then shoving it in front of an oncoming vehicle. Several smashed vehicles, a visit from the local constabulary, and one chagrined husband later, Alice is far from learning her lesson. See, it’s time to get wee Molly into Chelsea College, the best school around, only Molly doesn’t like to do homework. So Alice does what any self-respecting parent would do: She dresses up as a spotty-faced kid and takes the entrance exam herself. Moral qualms are temporarily swept away by Alice’s drive to have the very best for her surely exceptional child. (She couldn’t possibly be average: Alice and her fellow mothers shudder at the very suggestion of non-exceptionalism.) Unfortunately for Alice, her slumbering conscience comes roaring to life when she meets Ruby, the very nice African girl from the housing estate who would have gotten a scholarship to Chelsea had Alice not aced the test for Molly. O’Farrell has trouble keeping his plot going at times, and some sections drag, but his unerring eye for the classism, racism and monstrous egoism propelling these middle-class mini-dictators more than makes up for it.

When this satire bites, it hurts.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8021-7015-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

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

Did you like this book?

ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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

Did you like this book?

more