By the end, Alice becomes downright unattractive, undeserving of the happiness that the genre typically grants....

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WIFE 22

A domestic romantic fantasy for maturing but computer-savvy Bridget Jones fans, Gideon’s first adult novel (The Slippery Year, 2009) concerns a wife torn between her uncommunicative, grumpy husband and the charming stranger she flirts with online.

Alice Buckle is about to turn 45, her mother’s age when she died, and feels so at sea that she’s been avoiding her motherless women support group. It doesn’t help that her marriage to advertising executive William has hit a rocky stretch. He’s always been a still waters running deep kind of guy, but since his demotion at work—for erratic behavior during a presentation for an erectile dysfunction product—he has become less communicative than ever. Alice also worries about her children: Is 12-year-old Peter gay? Has 15-year-old Zoe developed an eating disorder after being dumped by her first boyfriend, who happens to be the son of Alice’s best friend Nedra, a gay divorce lawyer? So when Alice receives an invitation to participate in an online survey of long-married women, she signs on. Answering the survey questions posed by an anonymous but empathetic researcher gives Alice an opportunity to re-examine the evolution of her marriage from its steamy beginnings. The set-up also allows the plot to unfold through questionnaire answers, emails and texts, as well as scenes of theatrical dialogue—although her only produced play bombed, Alice remains a playwright at heart. Supposedly following its rules of anonymity, Alice keeps the survey a secret from William although she has no compunction about telling Nedra. Irked by William’s apparent cluelessness, Alice carries on an increasingly intense flirtation with her researcher. Glued to her smart phone, she practically ignores her family and her myopic self-centeredness begins to grate.

By the end, Alice becomes downright unattractive, undeserving of the happiness that the genre typically grants. Nevertheless, women of a certain age will find her escapades breezy fun, especially since the William character is blatantly intended to bring Colin Firth to mind. 

Pub Date: May 29, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-52795-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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