Next book

THE KARNAU TAPES

A powerful first novel suffering from weaknesses—winner of Germany's Ernst Willner Prize—describes the final days of WW II from two intriguingly blended viewpoints. The story's primary narrator, Hermann Karnau, is a skilled sound engineer in his late 20s who first drifts toward complicity with the Nazi war machine when he's hired to help rig up a complicated public-address system for a huge political rally. Obsessed by ``the mystery of the human voice,'' Karnau is easily enlisted in increasingly bizarre projects: ``front-line duty'' taping the sounds of combat; recording the voices of dying patients in military hospitals; and, finally, attempting to preserve for posterity the words of the FÅhrer in his bunker as Russian armies approach Berlin. More improbably, Karnau is engaged to tend the five young children of a prominent national figure (identifiable as Joseph Goebbels) whose wife is giving birth again, during which time Karnau befriends the eldest child (and precocious surrogate mother to her younger siblings), eight-year-old Helga—whose narration of the chaos that afflicts her family is juxtaposed with Karnau's story. Though the parallel stories are adroitly distinguished, Beyer waits far too long to inform the reader that Karnau is remembering his version from the vantage point of 1992, when, as a ``retired security man,'' he's obliged to explain the function of a just-discovered ``sound archive'' connected to several municipal buildings in Dresden. Helga's story, by contrast, is presented in real time, as it is happening. Nor is this technical inconsistency the only flaw. The novel is further weakened by the excess space given to Karnau's often redundant ruminations on the natures of sound and speech. Nevertheless, Beyer creates an interest in his characters and makes us fear for them, and he shapes his story toward a nerve- rattling final crescendo. A good novel that might have been a much better one.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-100255-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 38


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

Next book

A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 38


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Categories:
Next book

THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

Categories:
Close Quickview