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HOUSE OF WOMEN

Touches of the charm, the pointed observations, the fine control of color, tone, mood, character, and milieu that mark Freed...

It’s still Freed, but a thinned quality causes events in her South African lives this time seemingly just to happen, not accumulating the dimension or history-nuanced flavor that distinguished The Mirror (1997) and The Bungalow (1992).

Thea’s glamorous and imperious mother Nalia is an opera singer and Holocaust survivor—and a controlling figure who keeps her grand house up on a hill always chained and padlocked, peremptorily gives orders to her housekeeper, and almost tyrannically guards her 17-year-old daughter and only child Thea not only from “common rubbish” but from Thea’s very own father, a cynical, unscrupulous, very rich womanizer and man of the world who has never been married to Nalia and certainly doesn’t live with her. But young Thea, however passionately she may love her famous and eccentric mother, also has pulsing deeps of her own—and, when her father sends his middle-aged Syrian friend Naim for her, she secretly “allows” herself, as it were, to be spirited away, put to sea on Naim’s yacht, then to be married to him and ensconced as his wife, albeit more like a prisoner or sexual slave, in his vast, palatial house on an unnamed island. From this point on, Thea’s weird life in the imprisoningly gothic world of the perverse though gentle Naim (she’s his because of a bet made between him and Thea’s father) is described in alternation with the slow decline of Nalia, who struggles with her equally overwhelming senses of outrage and despair at the loss of Thea—and continues to see Katzenbogen, her lover, psychiatrist, and then something more, as readers will discover, though without the snap or twist of a surprise that will really mean much when it comes.

Touches of the charm, the pointed observations, the fine control of color, tone, mood, character, and milieu that mark Freed at her best—all borne poorly by a vehicle that tries for more significance than it has.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2002

ISBN: 0-316-66633-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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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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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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