Thomson’s third departs from his mystery successes (Breaking Faith, 1996, etc.) and closes with a fine account of the 2002 Olympic women’s figure-skating finals—though a reader would have to be a real afficionado to still be interested. Part-Japanese Megumi (“Maggie”) Campbell is a starry-eyed skater who, with her athletic/romantic partner Clay Bartlett, envisions Olympic gold in pairs competition. Enter scheming, spoiled All-American Doreen (“Doe”) Rawlings, who adores Clay and, in an auto accident, ends his career hopes with Maggie. No matter: her love for Clay intact, Maggie returns to Japan, her girlhood home, to train for the daunting singles competitions under the yoga-like tutelage (“be the music, Maggie”) of her aging teacher, Madam Goto. Thomson cooks up a pair of trivial subplots—involving cell phones, the criminal underground, and a relentless national xenophobia—apparently intended not only to reveal Japan’s dreary, hierarchical, sexist, and exclusionary cultural life but to show its way of compromising Maggie’s fighting spirit. Back home, meanwhile, Clay becomes a rich, money-grubbing cad who conspires with an evil exhibitions manager to undermine Maggie’s success. To no avail, though, since Maggie, having rekindled a childhood crush with the outcast Hiro, drops the vile Clay, embraces Hiro, and skates to victory. In her final triumph, Maggie is inspired by a Japanese fighter pilot’s kamikaze haiku, written just before his gruesome suicide—a sadly misconceived device that works best as an example of the hazards of lazy writing. Thomson’s previous outings were admired for their plots, and even here he writes action sequences well. His characters, though, are as dry as rice cakes and predictable as metronomes. For fans of skating, there’s a little Nancy, some Tonya, a bit of Tara, and a lot of preliminary circling before the final action.

Pub Date: March 18, 1999

ISBN: 0-446-52445-X

Page Count: 464

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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