The crises seem desultory, and the triumphs somewhat cheerless, but French author Desplechin captures a thick sense of...

READ REVIEW

SANS MOI

A well-written, articulate US debut, a collection of moments and glimpses rendered in a drowsily meditative prose, chronicles an improbably successful partnership between two women as they wrestle together a contentment that has thus far eluded them.

The nameless first-person narrator, a freelance ad copywriter and a single mother with various unsatisfying men in her life, hires Olivia to baby-sit her children, Thomas and Suzanne. Olivia, an obese drug addict in exile from the streets, is invited to move in, and the yearlong dialogue between the two women carries along much of the tale, much of it pervaded by a feeling of ennui. The opening pages nicely capture the narrator's drifting, loveless malaise as she grapples with the dissatisfactions of her work and the always-looming need for income. Olivia—wounded, ill, filled with secrets and unspoken cruelties from her past—ignites her employer's interest. A woman of engaging opacity and a penchant for untimely confession, she disorients the narrator's sense of order in the world with her routines, habits of mind—indeed, her very psychology. Olivia's moral structure, her method of friendship, and the contours of her history are unlike anything the copywriter has seen. Along with her penchant for abrasive tales of drug use and sexual abuse, Olivia displays a very soulful capacity for friendship and solicitude. "Olivia's genius," the narrator writes, "saunters through the territory of goodness, whistling." In an inversion of fortunes, Olivia goes back to school, loses weight, and quits drugs while the narrator, after dwelling among suicidal passions for an anxious weekend, elects to move back home with her parents. As a final note, she begins a novel (presumably this one) concerning an unlikely friendship between two women.

The crises seem desultory, and the triumphs somewhat cheerless, but French author Desplechin captures a thick sense of "everydayness"—which is, after all, where much of our lives are spent.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-27214-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

Did you like this book?

more