THE FAVOURITE

In her third book, British novelist Daneman (A Chance to Sit Down, 1972) plays erotic geometry with the oedipal triangle—but it all seems flat as a plane in the end. Rosalind's husband, Frank, is leaving her for another woman. Fair enough, it seems, since she stole him from his first wife. But these overlapping love triangles seem merely an echo of the primal one: mother-father-daughter. Rosalind was always her father's favorite; she was the bait her mother used to keep her father at home. Daddy looms large in Rosalind's memories, a forceful man and a philanderer who was always running away from home or courting death, only to return in the end. But it is her mother who is the focus of Rosalind's love: ``For me her face is the original, the one on which my idea of faces is based.'' It's hard to understand, since we learn little of her mother other than that she loves to shop for hats and is so distracted that she sometimes gives Rosalind sandwiches with only tomato for filling. (And is it any surprise that little Ros prefers her sandwiches cut into triangles rather than squares?) As Rosalind's narrative jumps back and forth between her childhood in Australia and her present life in England, she also relates her own first experience of sexual desire as a teenager pursued by an older man; her steamy affair with Frank; and the delight she takes in her two young daughters. Frank will return in the end, but Rosalind suffers a far worse betrayal and learns that the family myth of the favorite daughter masks a deeper truth. Daneman can be witty enough with male/female relationships and is perspicacious in portraying children. But readers who know their Freud will be less shocked than Rosalind by the final revelation and will not share her opinion that ``[her] own banal story seems...so much more compelling'' than any other.

Pub Date: April 6, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-42625-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

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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