Cossé’s 2003 novel has been admirably translated, and the psychological issues she raises are telling and true.

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AN ACCIDENT IN AUGUST

The “accident” in the title refers to the Paris crash that killed Princess Diana, but Cossé takes the unusual step of imagining the life of a woman who was putatively involved.

Louise Origan is living a life, if not of quiet desperation, then at least of self-questioning, but her life is changed dramatically when, on a night in late August 1997, a Mercedes traveling at a high rate of speed grazes her Fiat Uno and leaves her shaken. The next morning she’s even more unnerved when she discovers that the Mercedes had crashed in the Pont de l’Alma and created a media frenzy. It’s reported that a “slow-moving white Fiat Uno” had been in the vicinity of the crash, and authorities (as well as sharklike journalists) are eager to find the owner. Louise knows she doesn’t want to be involved, so she takes her car across Paris to be fixed and leaves a false name at the garage. Even after she picks the car up, she considers ditching it (literally) and leaving her flat for a while, but then the sleazy mechanic shows up with a proposal—telling her story to Paris Match for one million francs and splitting the proceeds. To ensure this happening, he kidnaps her, but she escapes, committing a serious crime in the process. Then her life becomes peripatetic, as she roams from hotel to hotel and changes her look (ironically morphing into a Diana look-alike), still haunted by the possibility that her secret will be found out. The ultimate irony plays out when she discovers that she’s one of a long line of Fiat “owners” who have wished to insinuate themselves into the pop-culture drama.

Cossé’s 2003 novel has been admirably translated, and the psychological issues she raises are telling and true.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60945-049-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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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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