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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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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