THE INDUSTRY OF SOULS

Much published in England but known here only for his nonfiction (Opium: A History,1998), Booth offers a gripping tale’short-listed for the Booker—of the gulag and one man’s escape from it. In 1952, on business in Dresden, the university-educated Englishman Alexander Bayliss is picked up by the Soviets, charged with suspicion of espionage against the USSR, found guilty, and sentenced to 25 years of labor as a coal miner somewhere above the Arctic Circle. The reader gets this information from a much later time—gathering it from Bayliss’s own lengthy reminiscence on his 80th birthday as he makes his usual “rounds” of the Russian village of Myshkino, where, for 20 years, ever since the end of his sentence, he has lived with the devoted young woman Frosya and her car-mechanic husband, Trofim. What led him to the village won—t be told here, as neither will the cause of the special relationship between Bayliss—or Shurik, his Russian nickname—and young Frosya, who transparently reveres him. Why the villagers also venerate him, however, can be told—the reason being that even after a quarter-century in the gulag, he doesn—t hate them, insisting that they did nothing to him. For Shurik, an intelligently avuncular Solzhenitsyn-figure who only occasionally becomes overbearing, there is an absolute difference between political abstractions and real people. And, as he reminisces back to the suffering, cruelty, terror, and death he suffered or witnessed, it’s the people who were there with him that one will remember: Titian, the math professor now imprisoned; Avel, who flew MIG’s against Yankees; and, most especially, Kirill, the leader of Shurik’s work squad, whose boundless humor, generosity, friendship—and terrible death—will explain why Bayliss/Shurik chooses to devote what’s left of his own life to humble Myshkino. By turns terrifying and moving, an observant book likely to be long remembered.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-24203-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1999

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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