Newcomer Orlando's overlong, ultimately unrewarding look into the dark past of the 1981 graduating class of an exclusive Manhattan prep school. It's five years since graduation, and Michael Cadenhead, working for an N.Y.C. newspaper, is sifting through his peaceful if boring life when Douglas Taft, a former classmate, is stabbed in an apparent burglary attempt. Mike is summoned to the hospital—and thus reunited with the rich Thorndike School pack. Then another former classmate dies under mysterious circumstances, and Mike begins to investigate it for his paper. Interviews of Douglas, and Douglas's gorgeous supermodel sister Annabelle, will lead him into the sordid Thorndike past and the revelation of the Big Secret around which the novel is formed. Mike's investigation focuses on graduation weekend five years previous and on that weekend's Anthesteria—an annual bacchanalian jet-set party and the setting in which the mysterious event occurs. As Mike suspects from the outset, the mystery—like the fast set's school life—revolves around Annabelle and the various young men whom her beauty provokes into obsession. Orlando skillfully places us inside this already well-explored brat pack world of super-rich New York kids, but in doing so he makes Douglas, Annabelle, and their friends speak at a breakneck speed, often in partial phrases or with references to unspecified events in their shared past, and with very little action along the way. His duplication of ``real-life'' dialogue is Orlando's strong point; even so, it makes for a lot to fight through to find out the Big Secret. Interesting for Orlando's skill at duplicating realistic dialogue, but a long-winded, difficult read that is just too late for the brat pack bus.

Pub Date: June 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-66978-8

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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