A smooth, engrossing debut.

GOING TOPLESS

Two sets of sisters reunite tensely on a Mediterranean island to honor their dead patriarch.

Constance arrives at her family’s dilapidated house in Santerre brandishing her new boyfriend Jim, hoping that his presence will improve her rank in the household. She’s always watched her older sister Isabelle garner all the compliments and is surprised when the intriguing next-door neighbor takes a liking to her instead. Isabelle is on the prowl, wounded from publicly losing her famous and charismatic husband to a younger fling. She butts heads with her English stepsister Lucy, another beautiful, strong-willed woman who grew up longing to usurp Isabelle for the role of father’s favorite daughter. Even as an adult, she refuses to believe he could ever have wronged them. Lucy’s younger sister, the sensitive Jane, also smarting from losing her lover, knows better. The man in the middle of all this is the late Ross Wright, a schemer who went down in his heavily mortgaged plane, leaving his family literally to pay the price for his poor investments. His third wife, Odette, certainly feels the burden. Forced to leave their New York apartment and move back to her native France, she too finds herself on the island, privy to the familial and culture clashes. Newcomer McAndrew realistically relays sibling love and tension as the sisters bicker with and comfort one another in the days leading up to their father’s memorial service. The narrative takes some crazy turns that might seem preposterous in any other story, but McAndrew’s skill is such that you buy every minute of the partner swapping, surprise appearances, quirky locals, and discovered treasure that pop up on the way to epiphanies about dear old dad, relationships, and life in general.

A smooth, engrossing debut.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7434-7724-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Downtown Press/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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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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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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