Very familiar fare—in a second from the British author of Hoping for Hope (2001).


Squabbling family copes with death and disillusionment.

Informed by their aged but sprightly mother Clattie that their father has been felled by a heart attack, Jack Palmer’s grown children begin to whine—in a quiet, tight-lipped, veddy British sort of way. The complaining never lets up even after Clattie reveals a shocking family skeleton: early in their marriage, a woman Jack loved before he met Clattie gave birth to his child, whom he acknowledged and supported while keeping the secret from his subsequent children. Ralph, arrogant eldest of the legitimate Palmers, is aghast to find that he has a half-brother who had the temerity to precede him in the all-important birth order. Hugh, now a successful chef but definitely in touch with his inner middle child, is still struggling with issues of self-worth. He remembers only too well eying the dish of roast potatoes as a young boy, desperately willing there to be enough for him to have a second helping: What if this surprising new brother competes with him for the emotional potatoes? Will Pippa, their born-again younger sister, greet the prodigal with open arms and Christian love, or will she too raise hitherto unexplored issues of trust? Titus is nonplussed by all the ado, though a bit sad for his old dad. He’s a practical sort, an upholsterer and furniture restorer with a down-to-earth Australian wife and a punky teenaged daughter named Summer. “What sort of name is that?” Ralph spits. “They’re all so . . . so unlike us.” But mere aversion to antipodean accents can’t stop these mismatched siblings from opening a restaurant together and fulfilling Hugh’s lifelong dream (see above: enough potatoes). Titus designs the décor, sundry spouses and kids help out, and Clattie comes into her own at last. Everyone comes to terms with everything sooner or later, and please pass the salt, etc.

Very familiar fare—in a second from the British author of Hoping for Hope (2001).

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-525-94710-8

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2003

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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