The book has a rather didactic feel to it (see Eli’s advice above), and Zackheim demonstrates a wooden ear for dialogue,...

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BROKEN COLORS

A novel about art and artists, occasionally engaging but plagued by flat prose and bewildering chronological gaps.

Orphaned at an early age, Sophie Marks is destined to become an artist. She is raised by her grandfather Eli, a portrait painter, and by her grandmother Claire, a poet, in the English Midlands. Eli is not just a dispenser of artistic advice and aesthetic theory but also something of a philosopher: “Some people…are so afraid of dying that they don’t live while they’re alive. Their fear of death overwhelms their desire for life.” Sophie grows up talented but also isolated—“odd, disjointed, and aloof.” During World War II, when she is in her 20s, her entire family, including her illegitimate son André, is destroyed during the German bombing, so Sophie begins afresh, with a new lover, the sculptor Luca Bondi, and a new life in Italy. As her life as an artist progresses and her love for Luca deepens, Sophie suddenly finds herself betrayed, for Luca, distraught by Sophie’s inability to have another child, takes a lover and secretly has the child he’s always longed for. The novel then skips over the next 28 years, a chronological blank in which we learn that Sophie—Georgia O’Keeffe–like—is now in her late 70s and living in the Southwest American desert, still preoccupied with artistic issues, still filled with the terror and excitement of filling up a blank canvas. Zackheim is intent on bringing the novel full circle, for the dénouement finds Sophie returning to her European home, reuniting with Luca’s son and, eventually though somewhat improbably, with Luca himself.

The book has a rather didactic feel to it (see Eli’s advice above), and Zackheim demonstrates a wooden ear for dialogue, which can read like a disquisition on aesthetics or soap-opera banter rather than the articulation of feelings from fully fleshed personalities.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-933372-37-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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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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