PART OF THE FURNITURE

A tart and persuasive portrait of an uncertain young woman's discovery of her heart's true needs. This is not new terrain for Wesley (An Imaginative Experience, 1995, A Dubious Legacy, 1992, etc.), who has often before tracked characters stumbling along the long path to something like real love. No one does it better: Her prose is simple and precise, her view of love's varying needs and confusions exact, her skewering of human foibles amused and exact. Juno Marlowe is, as the novel opens, attempting to escape an air raid. She is in London, in the early days of World War II, and has just said farewell to two young men going off to join their regiment. She has loved both Jonty and Francis since childhood; they, having decided with the chilling ruthlessness of youth that it won't do to go off to war as virgins, have managed to talk the insecure Juno into sleeping with both of them. Juno is given shelter during the air raid by Evelyn Copplestone, a polished, evidently wealthy, dour individual, who is also mortally ill. He makes Juno promise to take a letter to his father in the country, and dies before morning. Partly as an excuse to avoid being shipped off to Canada, and away from Jonty and Francis, the until-now pliable Juno pursues her quixotic mission, showing a surprising independence. Robert Copplestone, despite his despair at the loss of his wife and, now, his son, gives Juno shelter. His odd, somewhat raffish household begins to arouse her exuberant enjoyment of life; to her amazement, Juno, at first stunned by the discovery that her night with Jonty and Francis has left her pregnant, begins to develop a new frankness and sense of purpose. Amazed, she finds herself deeply attracted to Robert. It's some testament to Wesley's skill that the unlikely romance between Robert and Juno seems both right and entirely believable. An elegant, satisfying entertainment.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-670-87363-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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