Begley’s fifth (About Schmidt, 1996; As Max Saw It, 1994, etc.) is the tale of a master of finance—advertising, actually—who faces terminal cancer with the same stiff upper lip and commanding refinement that led him through his not- always-appealing life. Diagnosed with cancer that leaves him about half a year to go, Thomas Mistler heads into the final few months of his life in—panic? despair? fear? None of the above, thank you. This man who has gotten—taken, one might say—all he’s wanted from life isn—t going to stop living the same way now. He—ll tell all to his dutiful but unloved wife Clara, but not just yet, and the same for his much-loved but distant son and only child, Sam, 36. There—ll be time later for final moments—but it’s essential first that the sale of Mistler’s firm, already underway, not be jeopardized by news of his illness. Still, on the other hand, maybe Mistler does need to be alone and think a little: so, with a few practical lies to Clara and Sam—business abroad, delays—he’s off to his favorite city of Venice, —the one place on earth where nothing irritated him.— Not quite true, though, since unexpected sex with a girl he—d met only once, at a New York dinner party, ends up turning him cruelly pompous and giving her the push’so he’s alone to appreciate the great art, food, and wines (—There were so many reds he had never drunk—) of the ancient city. But even then, he—ll bump into an old Harvard classmate, through him into another one, who this time, we—re led to believe, is the one great (uncaptured) passion of his life, for whom he buys an exquisite antique glass candelabra, impressing even the glass-dealer with his knowledge, taste, refinement, and discretion. The chronicling of a patrician life from the inside: sometimes gripping, often familiar, much of the time with airs. Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-375-40262-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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