Condé’s flair for sensual detail—Cape Town streetscapes, heady black coffee—and her wry cynicism offset flabby plotting.


Caribbean painter reels from the aftermath of her lover’s murder in Cape Town, South Africa, in this retread of Condé’s usual themes: racial alienation and women’s struggles for autonomy (Who Slashed Celanire’s Throat?, 2004, etc.).

Rosélie has been reduced to telling fortunes and giving therapeutic massages after her white partner, English professor Stephen, whose proposals of marriage she’s ducked for 20 years, is killed, supposedly in a robbery, outside a convenience store where he’d gone to get cigarettes at midnight. The homicide detective on the case doesn’t buy it, but Rosélie’s too preoccupied with ruminating about her past to provide many clues. First, there is the estrangement from her Guadeloupean parents, genteel Creole Rose and rakish mulatto Elie. Traveling to Paris, Rosélie meets reggae star Salama Salama, who takes her to N’Dossou, Africa, then abandons her for a more advantageous marriage. After dabbling in prostitution, Rosélie encounters Yeats scholar Stephen in a N’Dossou bar, and the two are off to New York City, where Rosélie has an affair with Ariel, who runs a progressive school in the Bronx. Since Stephen wants to experience Cape Town after apartheid, they decamp again, and Rosélie tries to concentrate on her painting. Resentful of the hateful stares her relationship with Stephen elicits, Rosélie closets herself in her studio, admitting only her maid and friend, Dido. Only after Stephen’s death does she suspect his young male protégés, and she embarks on an investigation of her own. Suspense is beside the point, as is characterization of the ever-faithful-in-his-fashion Stephen, whose “secret” is telegraphed from the beginning. This is Rosélie’s story as she internalizes centuries of racial and sexual enslavement and, like other Condé heroines before her, decides that her salvation lies in shedding all impediments, internal and external, to self-expression.

Condé’s flair for sensual detail—Cape Town streetscapes, heady black coffee—and her wry cynicism offset flabby plotting.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2007

ISBN: 0-7432-7128-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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