IN THE BEAUTY OF THE LILIES

Updike's bold attempt at the generational saga—the first such novel of his long career—falls somewhere between George Eliot and John O'Hara, and doesn't scruple to provide a few of the simpler pleasures … la Judith Krantz or Harold Robbins. In tracing the private and public histories of four generations of the Wilmot family (originally) of Paterson, New Jersey, this ambitious and energetic, though occasionally muted, novel also delineates the growing secularization of American society in this century. It begins with the agonized realization of Presbyterian minister Clarence Wilmot that he no longer believes in God and must in conscience resign his ministry. The hardships subsequently endured by the enervated Clarence's surviving family are memorably encapsulated in his "sensitive" son Teddy's difficult progress to maturity, marriage, and fatherhood in the fractious 1920s. The focus shifts to Teddy's daughter Esther ("Essie"), an extroverted beauty who, like her father and grandfather before her, finds in the excitement of motion pictures a gratifying alternative to the mundane realities of life. Essie breaks into movies in the early 1950s and—as Alma DeMott—enjoys a long career. In the novel's concluding section, "Alma's" only son, Clark, in effect reversing his family's enthrallment by Hollywood, drops out of his mother's glamorous orbit and into fundamentalist Colorado commune and toward a violent destiny all too reminiscent of recent years' headlines. It all feels more than a bit hurried, and the impression of a crash course in modern US history is intensified by long, momentum-stopping catalogues in which the fruits of Updike's obviously diligent research are numbingly displayed. Still, this is Updike—and there's much to admire in the deep and thoughtful characterizations (especially of the tormented Clarence and confused Teddy), impish humor (the summary descriptions of Essie's films are a hoot), and dependably precise and fluent prose. On balance, a more than commendable effort from an established master whose preeminence has much to do with his exuberant willingness to keep trying new things.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-44640-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1995

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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