Another pleasant jaunt down a genealogical rabbit hole.


From the The Seven Sisters series , Vol. 3

Third in Riley’s Seven Sisters series (The Storm Sister, 2016, etc.) about adopted daughters in search of their ancestry.

Star, real name Asterope after one of the “seven sisters” of the Pleiades star cluster, has, upon the recent death of her adoptive father, a wealthy Swiss seafarer, returned to her childhood chateau on Lake Geneva to retrieve his legacy to her: a figurine of a black panther, the address of a bookshop in London, and a name, Flora MacNichol. Star has given up dreams of academe to stay close to sister CeCe in London—so symbiotic is their relationship that Star has always been known as CeCe’s shadow. Star visits the bookshop, whose eccentric proprietor, Orlando Forbes, comes from impoverished nobility. When she learns that Flora, her presumed ancestor, may be related to Orlando, she accompanies him to the family seat, High Weald, in Kent, where she meets Orlando’s truculent brother Mouse, their cousin Marguerite Vaughan, and her young son Rory, heir to the estate. Star is immediately drawn to the crumbling hall and the surrounding flora and fauna. She consults journals she finds in the mansion and learns that in 1909, Flora gave up her true love, Archie, Lord Vaughan, to her younger sister Aurelia. For reasons not immediately revealed, Aurelia is the repository of her landed but cash-poor family’s hopes and limited resources, while Flora is treated like a stepchild despite her beauty and talent. (Flora is an animal lover and budding naturalist who will later become a protégé of Beatrix Potter.) After her parents sell their beloved country home to fund Aurelia’s dowry, Flora is sent to live with Mrs. Keppel, a society grand dame rumored to be King Edward’s mistress. With Mrs. Keppel’s help, Flora seems slated for an advantageous but loveless match to a drunken earl. The frame story structure serves this installment well—the past and present narratives are equally engaging. The storytelling is leisurely, almost to excess, then suddenly the stakes heighten as the Forbes-Vaughan connection is illuminated and Star discovers her true heritage and destiny.

Another pleasant jaunt down a genealogical rabbit hole.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5994-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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