PARIS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Verne's recently discovered first novel, written over 125 years ago and now smoothly translated from its French edition by the poet Richard Howard. Verne's editor rejected the manuscript in 1863 for its ``unrealistic'' view of the future, though, as it turns out, Verne's grim predictions are chillingly exact. A better reason to reject his novel would have been that Verne had not yet learned to portray believable characters. Not that he'd ever be very good at it, but his young hero here, Michel DufrÇnoy, is little more than a prop to be shuttled about various neighborhoods of Paris in 1960, as imagined from the perspective of 1860. Michel has two male friends and a girlfriend, none of them memorable. Michel's artistic, more-or-less blacklisted uncle is, however, quite so, but only because Verne uses him as a mouthpiece to explain what happened in the 19th and early 20th centuries to bring about a dystopian Paris. In any case, Verne's predictions, as always, surpass any other writer's in their precision: ``. . . the study of belles lettres and of ancient languages (including French) was at this time virtually obsolete . . . some classes in literature were still taught, though these were sparsely attended.'' FAX machines, computers, automobiles, and high-speed trains are all clearly described, as are a number of devices that boggle the mind in their complexity but have yet to be invented. Remarkably, Verne's 20th- century Paris rarely seems dated. This may be because Verne was uncannily correct in his major predictions, that the future would be dominated by corporations and that technology would be the dominant god. Nothing impractical or unprofitable can exist in this world, and, in the end, people are no more than fragile machines expected to serve without question the corporate deities. Hardly H.G. Wells, or even Verne at his best, but, still, quite a welcome—and startling—curiosity.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-44434-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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