A sudsy insider’s look at the celebrity machine—and the cruel world it creates.

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LAST NIGHT AT CHATEAU MARMONT

In her fourth novel, the author of The Devil Wears Prada (2003) considers what it would be like if your husband became a rock star. The short answer: not that great.

Everyone agrees Brooke and Julian are the real thing: madly in love and mutually supportive. Theirs is a marriage that could weather anything, except maybe the toxic storm of modern celebrity. Julian, a singer-songwriter, is in the final stages of recording his album for Sony. He’s still an unknown but has a following in Manhattan, which includes his wife Brooke, who first fell in love watching him sing at a dive bar. She works 60 hours a week as a nutritionist (at a hospital and part time at an elite girl’s school) all to help Julian achieve his dream. Then fame comes like an avalanche. A Tonight Show appearance pushes his single up the charts, and what follows—more TV appearances, a Vanity Fair cover, endless traveling, starlet photo ops—is just the stuff to weaken a marriage. Brooke becomes a nag, and meek Julian, manipulated by his sleazy manager, is transformed into an overworked brat (albeit one with a superior wardrobe). Brooke can’t take time off from work, so they spend weeks apart, and when they’re together, everything between them seems different. Then come the vicious articles in the gossip rags, insinuating there is trouble in their marriage, which unsurprisingly brings trouble to their union. The novel has difficulty convincing the reader that any sane woman would behave as Brooke does—refusing to take a sabbatical from her 60-hour work week, passing on a romantic Italian vacation, stubbornly refusing to live it up with her husband. By the end she realizes she is as much to blame for their relationship’s collapse as those compromising photos of Julian and a floozy at the Chateau Marmont. Only a miracle, or maybe some simple compromise, can get Brooke and Julian back together.

A sudsy insider’s look at the celebrity machine—and the cruel world it creates.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4391-3661-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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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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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

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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

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