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THE NAME OF A BULLFIGHTER

An abrupt change of pace from the Chilean author of The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (not reviewed), this is a swiftly paced suspense thriller that adapts the rhetoric of Raymond Chandler to the genre of international intrigue. During WW II, a pair of German policemen steal and hide a cache of precious medieval coins (known as ``the collection of the Wandering Crescent''). More than half a century later, two parallel searches for this treasure are set in motion—by the crippled thief whose partner absconded to South America with the coins soon after the war ended, and by a furtive remnant of the German Democratic Republic's intelligence-gathering bureau. The latter organization sends Frank Galinsky, a burnt-out former intelligence officer, to do its bidding. His rival—and the novel's only fully-developed character—is Juan Belmonte, a weary ex-Sandinista guerrilla living in exile in Hamburg, who bears the same name as a famous bullfighter—and also the annoying opprobrium of being continually mistaken for a Turk. Belmonte is a cynical survivor, with submerged personal reasons both pushing him from and drawing him toward his homeland, and the possessor of a sardonic noir-ish mode of expression that's straight out of 1930s Warner Brothers melodramas (for example, this thumbnail observation of a peripheral character: ``He was short and tubby, and I've seen clams with longer necks''). The story marches along smartly and breezily, enlivened by Belmonte's bilious charm. But its other characters are dull dogs by comparison, and its resolution—complete with a melodramatic climactic confrontation and a last-second rescue—is strictly formula stuff. Capably written, intermittently entertaining, and undoubtedly destined for the screen.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100193-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1996

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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