A bony, hasty affair, though with a therapeutic resolution that will bring satisfaction to Hart fans.



The reconstruction of a childhood trauma from conflicting points of view provides the riveting draw in English novelist Hart’s latest dire page-turner (The Stillest Day, 1998, etc.).

Between visits by neurotic and wealthy patients, Hart’s stiff, sober-toned psychiatrist-narrator Jack Harrington (reminiscent of the chilly, nameless doctor in her explosive 1991 debut novel about obsession, Damage), once indifferently married and good at keeping secrets, quietly probes his curiously intimate and perhaps unhealthy attachment to his tony, high-society sister Kate. (The two were raised by a London uncle when their mother died and their father moved to America.) A laconic redhead whose beauty is described as Old School (think Nicole Kidman), Kate is contemplating a second marriage—to rich scion of the London haute juiverie Harold Abst—a good catch, since he resides in Eaton Square. But Kate, evidently, is unstable, so much so that brother Jack has sacrificed his adulthood (manhood?) in keeping her from “sinking.” What is the parental drama involving their childhood estate at Malamore, Ireland, that the siblings continue to reenact and that involves dancing silently naked together? Brisk, revelatory dialogue (written as if for the screen) and reckless hints at incestuous squeezing keep the reader pushing forward while at the same time being exasperated by dinner-party platitudes that, if they’re intended to make Jack sound wise, don’t succeed (“Words, when released, fly sometimes like predatory birds toward their victims”). As if she’s aiming to reveal her true creative torch-springs, Hart supplies abundant over-the-couch confessions and snatched, urbane conversations. Still, to her credit, she also attempts to examine the compelling facets of a narrative that needs to step carefully, there being so much that’s shifting and unreliable amid the truth.

A bony, hasty affair, though with a therapeutic resolution that will bring satisfaction to Hart fans.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-58567-170-3

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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

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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

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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

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