An emotional journey that's stunted by the way it's told.

LIZZIE & DANTE

A 32-year-old Shakespeare professor with stage 3 cancer learns to embrace life on a vacation in Elba, Italy, in romance author Eloisa James' first novel using her real name—under which she's also a Shakespeare professor at Rutgers.

Lizzie Delford leaves New York for six weeks in Italy, traveling with her best friend, Grey, and his partner, movie star Rohan Das. Lizzie is ostensibly on the trip as an adviser to Rohan, who's writing a screenplay for a new film of Romeo and Juliet; but Grey is hoping she will rest and recover from her latest bout of chemo. At the beach, Lizzie meets Dante, a world-renowned chef and single father to Etta, a precocious 12-year-old. As Lizzie contemplates whether she should try more invasive and extreme cancer treatments, she begins an affair with Dante. She can’t resist the charming Italian and his love for the island and its history, even as she keeps her diagnosis secret. Slowly, the group bonds into something like a family. The novel grapples with the question of what terminally ill people owe their loved ones and themselves. While her best friend is furious that Lizzie might refuse further treatment, Lizzie worries that her illness is a burden. She feels guilty for falling in love with Dante and his daughter, knowing her time is limited. Bly makes an interesting narrative choice, telling the story from the points of view of Lizzie and Etta, Dante’s daughter. Etta is knowledgeable enough about literature to banter with Lizzie about Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha and gender roles in Shakespeare's plays, but she's still a child, and her perspective confines the reader’s experience of the book.

An emotional journey that's stunted by the way it's told.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13482-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dial Press

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU

Two erudite Irishwomen struggle with romance against the backdrop of the Trump/Brexit years.

Eileen and Alice have been friends since their university days. Now in their late 20s, Eileen works as an editorial assistant at a literary magazine in Dublin. Alice is a famous novelist recovering from a psychiatric hospitalization and staying in a large empty rectory on the west coast of Ireland. Since Alice’s breakdown, the two have kept in touch primarily through lengthy emails that alternate between recounting their romantic lives and working through their angst about the current social and political climate. (In one of these letters, Eileen laments that the introduction of plastic has ruined humanity’s aesthetic calibration and in the next paragraph, she’s eager to know if Alice is sleeping with the new man she’s met.) Eileen has spent many years entangled in an occasionally intimate friendship with her teenage crush, a slightly older man named Simon who is a devout Catholic and who works in the Irish Parliament as an assistant. As Eileen and Simon’s relationship becomes more complicated, Alice meets Felix, a warehouse worker who is unsure what to make of her fame and aloofness. In many ways, this book, a work of both philosophy and romantic tragicomedy about the ways people love and hurt one another, is exactly the type of book one would expect Rooney to write out of the political environment of the past few years. But just because the novel is so characteristic of Rooney doesn’t take anything away from its considerable power. As Alice herself puts it, “Humanity on the cusp of extinction [and] here I am writing another email about sex and friendship. What else is there to live for?”

A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-60260-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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