A few too many secrets and a murder-mystery plotline that feels like a bit of an afterthought can’t mar this brightly...

THE DRESS SHOP OF DREAMS

Four couples search high and low for romance amid the magical byways of Oxford, England, in this second novel.

Twenty years ago, when her parents died in a mysterious fire, Cora Callaway (who was just a child at the time) shut down all her emotions. Since then, she’s felt neither fear nor anger—nor happiness, nor love. Her only wish is to continue working on the scientific breakthrough her parents had been about to announce at their deaths. Her grandmother Etta, who owns a magical dress shop where women can find their hearts’ desires, decides it’s way past time for Cora to learn to feel again. She works her sewing magic on her granddaughter and waits for the inevitable flood of emotions to arrive, especially Cora’s long-suppressed love for Walt, her childhood friend and owner of the bookstore where Cora has spent many hours happily reading science tomes, oblivious to Walt’s feelings for her. Walt, in an effort to excise Cora from his heart, starts reading Jane Austen novels at night on the radio, which brings him to the attention of Milly, a widow trying to mend her own broken heart, and Dylan, the radio-station manager who starts writing to Milly under Walt’s name. Meanwhile Cora seeks out the aid of police detective Henry to help her solve the mystery of her parents’ deaths, all while Henry pines for his ex-wife, Francesca, who harbors a deep, dark secret. And though Etta has set all this in motion with a few stitches of red thread, she can’t seem to work her magic on herself and her long-lost love.

A few too many secrets and a murder-mystery plotline that feels like a bit of an afterthought can’t mar this brightly colored fabulist confection, more sweet than filling but still sure to delight those looking for a little fairy dust in their romance.

Pub Date: Dec. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8041-7898-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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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