An unpretentiously philosophical assessment of class and love.

When It Rained at Hembry Castle

From the The Hembry Castle Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A romantic historical novel that examines a clash of classes in 19th-century England.

When the eighth Earl of Staton dies, it paves the way for the succession of his brother, Richard Meriwether, who isn’t generally considered by his family, or by himself, to be suitable for the throne. In fact, he’s so daunted by his new position he seems eager to shirk his duties. He’s also unwed and lacks a prospective heir, though rumors swirl that he might have already fathered an illegitimate child. His niece, Daphne, raised in Connecticut, returns to Hembry Castle with her father, Frederick, who’s taken over editing the Daily Observer. Frederick is known as “the wayward” because he exiled himself to study literature at Oxford University and then made a life in America to avoid the stuffy trappings of aristocracy. His daughter, Daphne, was raised according to this ideal, and she struggles to acclimate herself to her strange new environment that’s also her birthright. She meets Edward, a reporter and rising literary star who works for Frederick; the two are immediately drawn to each other, but because his grandparents work as help at the castle, the two are separated by a yawning chasm of socioeconomic disparity. Also, Edward is already engaged to Christina, though the new situation challenges his feelings for her: “He had convinced Christina that Miss Meriwether was nothing to him. Now he only had to convince himself.” Allard (History Will Be Kind, 2015, etc.) is a seasoned author, and her experience shows in both the lapidary prose and the sensitivity with which she treats class division. Edward, for example, comes from humble origins, but he’s shown to be actually more comfortable with upper-class stodginess than Daphne is, as he grew up in the castle. Daphne’s father, meanwhile, is marvelously progressive, but it’s intriguingly unclear if he’s completely liberated himself from his affluent station. Overall, this is a delightful, often funny story that also serves as a gimlet-eyed study of class division and the possibility of its transcendence.

An unpretentiously philosophical assessment of class and love.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-63140-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Copperfield Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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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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