An entertaining tale of an off-kilter mind coping with shady surroundings, told with literary flair.

THE NAME OF THE RIDER

Creeping schizophrenia takes the reins of a young doctor’s mind in this subtle psychological mystery.

Simon Felsper, a medical student in London during the 1950s, has a preternaturally soothing bedside manner that makes him a favorite with patients. He also has, according to a psychiatry lecture he attends, the symptoms of a schizophrenic—an obsession with good-luck rituals; an authoritative voice in his head whom he dubs One; a penchant for biblical-sounding pronouncements like “You are the chosen one”; and a feeling that he is the target of a vague plot by one of his classmates, an aristocratic rake with the deceptively harmless nickname of Badger. When he is exiled to San Francisco after a run-in with Badger, Simon’s medical practice swells along with his sense of destiny. Convinced by One’s declarations that he is an enlightened soul, Simon believes that he can cure vague pains and malaise just by laying on his hands—and soon a devoted following of patients agrees. Yet he can’t shake the influence, real or imagined, of Badger, whose tentacles extend to a senior colleague and a high-priced call girl whom Simon is seeing and eventually entangle Simon in a murder. The author makes this odd, potentially claustrophobic story into an entertaining, slightly satirical novel of manners with noir-ish overtones, as Simon’s sensitive, grandiose perspective plays off the prosaic, crass outlooks of the people around him in a symphony of mutual incomprehension. Brooke tells the yarn with a dry wit, sharp-eyed prose and a knack for vibrant characterizations. (Badger, a confection of bluster, bonhomie and sly malice, is indelible.) The author is also a neurologist, and one of the book’s manifold pleasures is its well-observed portrait of the medical culture of 50 years ago, when authoritarian doctors treated patients with exquisite disdain. Brooke gives us a shrewd, absorbing study of a sensitive soul drawn into paranoid delusions that may not be so far-fetched.

An entertaining tale of an off-kilter mind coping with shady surroundings, told with literary flair.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0986823206

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Michael Brooke Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more