Raucous, confusing, hilarious, and, when least expected, furiously intelligent and touching.



London crooks nurse old grievances and settle older scores as Amis has his witty way with porno, Hollywood, modern marriage, airline terror, incest, chatrooms, the Royals, and the gutter press.

The narrative stream is thick here, and, if this is possible in a book, kind of loud, like the ramblings of an extremely entertaining if rather boozy raconteur in a noisy pub. And if the listener is American, there’s something of the translation problem as Amis (Koba the Dread, 2002, etc.) lays on the criminal class argot with a trowel, but it’s huge fun even at 85% comprehension what with the great goofy targets and Amis’s evil humor that goes to the brain’s bad pleasure receptors like the very best drugs. The setup is the mysterious mugging of Xan Meo, a London film personage of criminal descent. Well and very successfully into his second marriage, Meo is alone and celebrating his maturity with a couple of drinks when a pair of toughs clobber him into insensibility, advising him between blows of his error: the mention in print of a Joseph Andrews. Joseph Andrews? Amis follows Meo through his recuperation and efforts to make sense of the nonsensical beating and the culpable connection to a Fielding novel. Concurrently, England’s King Henry IX whose resemblance to a real-world prince is unmistakable, wrestles limply with extortionists who have pictures of the Princess Royal in the bath, and the slovenly star “reporter” of the gamiest tabloid in the solar system seeks love and a more manly manhood. Meo’s search for meaning is grievously hampered by addled memories and very unpleasant personality alterations, and his marriage is in great peril. Sorting it out involves a beautiful and bent porno star, a trip to sleaziest California, and much consultation with Meo’s breathtakingly violent career-criminal relatives. The King’s diggings will tap into some of the same veins that Meo’s working.

Raucous, confusing, hilarious, and, when least expected, furiously intelligent and touching.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-4013-5203-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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

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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

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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

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