Unlike his high-minded heroine, Phillips (Snakebite Sonnet, 1998) scrupulously avoids any worship at the shrine of art: the...

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THE ARTIST’S WIFE

An inventive, vividly written fictional autobiography of Alma Mahler (1879–1964).

The full-figured blond beauty of Fräulein Alma Schindler, daughter of a famous landscape painter, is much admired in Vienna’s musical and artistic circles. When partial deafness ends her plan to become an opera singer, she turns to composing, while also daydreaming about marrying “the way that you might stand above a ravine and imagine yourself falling.” She’s set her heart on an artist, provided she can find one who’s pure, brave, and manly enough to dominate her. Starting with painter Gustav Klimt—a talented peasant, but still a peasant, according to her outraged family—she trifles with one man after another, finally choosing composer/conductor Gustav Mahler. Jewish-born Catholic convert Mahler can’t resist this self-styled Aryan goddess of love, who nurtures his genius and inspires his greatest music. But after the birth of their first daughter, Maria, the role of muse begins to wear thin; soon pregnant again, Alma feels she’s turning into a doughty housekeeper. When Maria dies of diphtheria, the grieving family sets sail for America, where Mahler triumphs, then sickens of heart disease. Later, while taking the waters at an Austrian spa, the couple meets a young architect, Walter Gropius, who falls immediately in love with Alma. But he won’t marry her after the great man dies, and so she begins an affair with Czech expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka—a liaison that ends badly. Years afterward, she marries Gropius, by then busy inventing the Bauhaus movement. Moving right along, she eventually leaves him for another Jew who can’t resist her: popular Austrian author Franz Werfel. The two narrowly escape the Holocaust and wind up in Hollywood, along with other famous European ex-pats. Franz dies, and Alma lives on 20 years more, old and fat and ultimately disappointed, even by her own death.

Unlike his high-minded heroine, Phillips (Snakebite Sonnet, 1998) scrupulously avoids any worship at the shrine of art: the result, thankfully, is highly entertaining.

Pub Date: June 21, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6670-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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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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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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