ADELE

A highly charged, deeply eroticized historical and contemporary fiction from the American-born English author of two short-story collections and the novels Trust (1988) and Rose Reason (1992). Flanagan writes about women who are impelled by the urgent, often violent emotions they conceal beneath dutiful exteriors, and who are usually disappointed by the men to whom they confide their secrets. There's an identifiable, implicit homage to Henry James in her penetrating analyses of the ways in which women think, feel, and behave differently from men. This novel begins as Celia Pippet (``a snotty middle class sourpuss''), having stolen a scandalous objet d'art from the British Museum, travels to France to learn the truth about eponymous title character Adäle Louisante—a mysterious Parisian beauty whose involvement in a scandalous love affair, 50 years earlier, had led to her even more mysterious death. Accompanied by friends who both share and mistrust her zeal, Celia investigates L'affaire Adäle, striking gold when she meets Adäle's onetime nurse Blanche Jessel (could a character's name be more Jamesian?), whose reluctant memories include her characterization of Paris between the World Wars as ``a sexual theme park.'' Flanagan's tendencies toward garish imagery and runaway melodrama are actually quite successfully concentrated in the thrillingly evoked figure of Jonas Sylvester, a proto-Nazi gynecologist who had imagined the lustrously beautiful Adäle the prototype for a scientifically created perfect race—and whose workmanlike passion for his headstrong Trilby becomes both the making and the breaking of her. Adäle is, alas, far too passive to be fully credible, and Flanagan never gets convincingly inside her mind and feelings (or, indeed, those of any of the novel's characters). Oddly enough, it scarcely matters, for almost everything else works in this expertly fashioned romantic tale. Henry James might have disapproved, but one suspects he would have devoured every page of Adäle with agreeably guilty pleasure.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-393-04547-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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