A harebrained melodrama.



A marriage unravels along with the U.S. mission in Lebanon in 1983, in this debut from a former CNN correspondent.

Lara McCauley arrives in Beirut in January 1983 with her husband, Mac, the new bureau chief for a major U.S. magazine. Narrator Lara, 29, is still the naïve wifey who’ll do anything to please, though she suspects Mac may have cheated on her. He’s a classic chauvinist pig who humiliates Lara in public and wastes no time starting an affair with Nadia, his Lebanese translator, when he’s not drinking with his “tribe,” his fellow journalists at the Commodore Hotel. Lara finds a friend in Thomas, the half-Polish, half-Brazilian freelancer who’s an old Beirut hand with an unrivaled network of sources. Gentle, erudite Thomas is rumored (correctly) to be gay, but Robertson fails to bring him into focus. Their innocent friendship enrages Mac, who rapes Lara (“forced bonding” is her phrase) while reeking of Nadia’s scent. As her situation worsens, so does that of the American mission. The embassy is blown up in April, and the climax will come in October, when 241 Marines are killed at their airport camp. Robertson’s historical framework is accurate enough, but she lacks the skills to dovetail Lara’s story credibly with Lebanon’s byzantine politics and feuding warlords. It doesn’t help that Lara makes one dumb mistake after another, first having (or attempting to have) sex with Thomas, then having an indiscreet lunch with him at a mountain hotel, and finally, panicking over Mac’s likely reaction, crossing the super-dangerous Green Line on foot, despite Thomas’s entreaties. When Thomas disappears, Lara suspects Mac has had him killed, and is overwhelmed with guilt that she may have unwittingly betrayed him. She takes a spectacular revenge on her husband, Mrs. Mouse becoming Lady Macbeth; but then, as she says, like Reagan back in Washington, she was only doing what she believed to be right.

A harebrained melodrama.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2006

ISBN: 0-977-61420-4

Page Count: 280

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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