THE STARS OF THE SOUTH

The second installment in one of the most deeply curious works of modern fiction: a romantic celebration of the South in the period leading up to the Civil War, by an acclaimed American writer who has spent most of his life living abroad. Green, born in Paris in 1900, grew up listening to the tales of the Old South told by his mother, raised in Virginia. During his long and prolific career, he has published a number of powerful, somber novels, plays, and a series of acclaimed memoirs and diaries. But he never forgot his mother's stories of an elegant, untroubled life in the Old South. The first volume in the ongoing series, The Distant Lands (1991), was published in France in the 1980s and became a phenomenal bestseller. His protagonist, Elizabeth Escridge, is a beautiful, willful, deeply romantic Englishwoman. The story followed the adolescent Elizabeth's rather complex romantic entanglements, centered around a Georgia plantation, and culminating in a duel in which her former lover and her husband kill each other. Now, Green traces her still tempestuous life in the years leading up to the outbreak of war, as she attempts to conform to the intricacies of high-society life in Savannah, raise her son, unravel some family mysteries, and resist the romantic advances of various dashing gentlemen. She marries a cousin, only to lose him in the war's first major battle. Despite the overheated drama, this is no Gone With the Wind: Green can write, and he knows how to set a large, shrewdly detailed cast in motion. The gothic plot (of betrayals, frustrated loves, grim secrets) is lively and inventive. But this is a world without larger moral dimensions: Slavery is kept largely offstage, and Green, sadly, really does seem to believe, as the narrative notes, that the gentlemanly, put-upon South was merely ``defending its lands'' in a war that took 600,000 lives. A troubling, oddly outdated work.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1996

ISBN: 0-7145-2985-0

Page Count: 651

Publisher: Marion Boyars

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1996

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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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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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