After the treacly The Angel of Galilea (1998) and the acrid Leopard in the Sun (1999), you never know what you’ll get from...

READ REVIEW

DELIRIUM

A prominent Colombian family’s degradation and undoing mirror their country’s victimization by murderous drug lords in this ambitious novel, the author’s sixth in English translation.

Four narrators share the story of the Londoños of Bogotá, at least one of whom exhibits a deeply divided personality. She’s Agustina, a bewitchingly beautiful “lunatic” who drifts in and out of promiscuity and paranoia, and who, in memories of her childhood and youth (in which she often refers to herself in the third person), broods obsessively over her not-quite-sisterly affection for her frail, effeminate younger brother Bichi, the prime target of their domineering father’s violent physical abuse. Complementary and contrasting stories are told by Agustina’s doting husband, Aguilar, 16 years her senior, and a university professor unemployed due to ongoing political unrest (and reduced to delivering dog food); her former lover Midas McAllister, a drug-dealer in nervous thrall to internationally powerful overlord Pablo Escobar; and her German grandfather Nicholás Portulinus, a piano teacher whose cosmetic marriage to his former student Blanca masks his sexual attraction to nubile young musicians of both genders. Much of this is seductive and enthralling, and sharp characterizations (the best being the indirect one of the malevolent, unstable Escobar) keep the reader interested throughout. But the multiple narratives are presented without transitions and, too often, are so confusing that the reader is hard-pressed to decipher exactly who successively introduced characters are (a prime example: Agustina’s duplicitous and dangerous other brother Joaco), and how they’re all interconnected. Nonetheless, Restrepo’s unflinching portrayal of Agustina’s—and, by implication, Colombia’s—reluctance to confront her demons has genuine power, and many of this sometimes ungainly novel’s big scenes are hard to shake off.

After the treacly The Angel of Galilea (1998) and the acrid Leopard in the Sun (1999), you never know what you’ll get from Restrepo. Delirium is one of her better books.

Pub Date: March 20, 2007

ISBN: 0-385-51990-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

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

Did you like this book?

ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more