A curious mix of wide-eyed ingenuousness and death-haunted anxiety, and certainly no stylistic masterpiece, but so...



German-born, Australia-raised, New York resident Brett (You Gotta Have Balls, 2006, etc.) invests some of her own multicultural back story in her eponymous protagonist, an innocent abroad in a rock-’n’-roll world.

When we first meet Lola, she’s interviewing rising guitar hero Jimi Hendrix for Rock-Out, the Australian magazine that has sent this 19-year-old daughter of Holocaust survivors to London. While most young women would be swooning, Lola is telling Mick Jagger about her mother’s ordeal at Auschwitz or—when she crosses the Atlantic to New York—admitting to an arrogant, very stoned Jim Morrison that she doesn’t like him. Though she’s fat and constantly promising herself she will diet, Lola is too preoccupied by her fraught relationship with her traumatized parents to be intimidated by celebrities. As the story moves by fits and starts through the decades, she marries and then leaves a Former Rock Star (unnamed) for a painter and continues asking naïve but oddly effective questions of the people she interviews. Brett’s portraits of Lola’s subjects contain nothing that isn’t already familiar to anyone who has read more than two books on the 1960s music scene, and her prose is so un-nuanced and uninflected that the entire novel sounds as if it was written by a 19-year-old. Yet palpable sincerity and a good heart have the same cumulative impact in the narrative as they do in Lola’s interviews. Always utterly herself, she elicits genuine emotions from the stars she encounters (controlling Sonny Bono and pretentious Pete Townshend being the notable exceptions). Having observed Lola’s crippling panic attacks and her devastation over her mother’s death, readers will be relieved to see her transformation.

A curious mix of wide-eyed ingenuousness and death-haunted anxiety, and certainly no stylistic masterpiece, but so sweet-natured it’s impossible not to like.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59376-523-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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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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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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