Not one of Moriarty's best outings.

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TRULY MADLY GUILTY

Relying less on comedy or edginess than in previous novels (Big Little Lies, 2014, etc.), Moriarty explores the social and psychological repercussions of a barbecue in Sydney gone terribly awry.

What happened emerges slowly through glimpses of characters coping—or not coping—weeks after the event intercut with an unfolding chronicle of the actual barbecue day. Both past and present are seen through the eyes of those remembering, who have been affected very differently by the events. Leading up to the barbecue, Erika and her husband, Oliver, accountants whose buttoned-up personalities compensate for miserable upbringings (in Erika’s case by a hoarder and in Oliver’s by alcoholics), have invited Erika’s childhood friend Clementine, a cellist preparing for an important audition, her husband, Sam, and two small children, 2-year-old Ruby and 5-year-old Holly, for afternoon tea and are nervously planning to ask Clementine to donate eggs to help them have a baby. Oliver is understandably upset when Erika accepts a spur-of-the-moment invitation from their wealthy, very sociable neighbor, Vid, to bring everyone over to his backyard for a barbecue. But Clementine, who was instinctively dreading Erika’s tea, jumps at the chance for a lively afternoon with Vid, his sexy wife, Tiffany, and their brainy 10-year-old daughter, Dakota. While Dakota watches the smaller girls, the adults proceed to get mildly sloshed. Then Erika, drunk for the first time in her life, screams, and a child ends up in a life-threatening situation. The suspicion and guilt the adults and even children secretly feel in the aftermath cause rifts and secrets to surface within the three marriages and within Erika and Clementine’s friendship. The setup here is reminiscent of fellow Australian novelist Christos Tsiokas’ The Slap (2008), but while Tsiokas uses a minor incident to propel his corrosive examination of middle-class lives, Moriarty’s characters resolve their issues too neatly and with too much comforting ease.

Not one of Moriarty's best outings.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-06979-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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