A winning novel about how small missteps can result in global consequences.

CURTAIN CALLS

A NOVEL OF THE GREAT WAR

This thoughtful debut novel illustrates the impact of war on three young Americans visiting Paris.

Ponepinto (The Face Maker, 2013) seamlessly blends two of his interests: World War I and vaudeville, in which his grandfather once performed. His novel is set just before the start of the Great War, when three American vaudeville performers find themselves drawn into the orbit of Jean Jaures, the French peace advocate whose speeches single-handedly managed to postpone the start of the European conflict for two years. With war in the air, Jack and Gus, who team in a lonesome-cowboy act, and Kera, “The Parisienne Nightingale,” find themselves stranded in Paris, where the owner of the club at which they’re playing refuses (or can’t afford) to pay his performers. Fed up with his unrequited love for Gus, Jack decides to come out, and their forays into gay nightlife culture reveal the underbelly of the French capital, specifically at the smoke-filled cabaret Le Secret. From this dingy nexus, the trio divides, each following a separate destiny and initially making questionable choices, as the young often do. Yet they mature against the backdrop of a steady march toward war, inevitable after the assassination of Jaures. As Gus explains, “There was no need for the factions to debate the war any longer. It would come now. He took a last drink of the chill, bitter coffee—this was what the future would taste like for the Parisians.” Blending real and fictional characters, Ponepinto remarkably sketches the end of an era for France, which is slipping into a war that ultimately sparks another. All this is seen through the naïve eyes of three Americans, blank slates for history to sketch upon as they admirably evolve.

A winning novel about how small missteps can result in global consequences.

Pub Date: March 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1942797005

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Woodward Press

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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