THE GROUP

Out of the grove of academe (Vassar-'31) into the big world comes the group, with their unassailable self-assurance: they had gone to the very best college (well, Vassar was better than Smith or Wellesley); they had some ennobling notions about being enlightened and interested in higher things; and they had had a very liberal education although in one area it proves to be a little patchy (in spite of stealthy readings in Krafft Ebbing and what the doctors at Vassar had told them)....This is the book which has aroused considerable advance speculation and well it might; it has a tremendous reader recognition (for a few—mottled with indignation) and there cannot be much doubt that Mary McCarthy is an exceptional social satirist, with a jackdaw eye and an infallible ear. Through the seriatim sequence of events as one by one the girls go out to get a job, or a man, or keep him, the book not only achieves its continuity but its mobility of life through the '30's, social, political, professional and personal. From Kay's wedding in the church where her unreal will be held at the close of the book, this goes from one to the next—Dottie and her first experience, stripped to her string of pearls—the totem of good taste; Libby, who had done outstanding themes at Vassar, and now tries to make the literary scene in New York; Polly and her love for a young publisher who is married and in treatment and in conflict between "Fall River and Union Square"; Lakey who goes off to Europe—only on her return, is her sapphic streak apparent to the group who had known her so well in that intimate circle of eight who had lived in South Tower; etc., etc. Certainly here, more than in any of her other novels, there's the evidence that Mary McCarthy can not only impale but move and there's more than a little residual sympathy for those involved. It's a stunning entertainment, with many special effects, the civilized intelligence, the style, the wit. Succès de scandale AND succès d'estime, it's an irresistible combination.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 1963

ISBN: 9780156372084

Page Count: 492

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1963

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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