A thought-provoking novel of both beauty and brains.

THE LIFE TO COME

An aspiring novelist moves through a circle of friends, lovers, and acquaintances, all navigating fraught relationships with each other and with their homelands.

There is a moment in de Kretser’s (Springtime, 2016, etc.) novel when she describes the works a character translates as “obscure European...novels that offered no clear message nor any flashing signs as to how they were to be understood, novels whose authors were neither photogenic nor young—sometimes they were even Swiss.” This tongue-in-cheek assessment—one of so many delightfully caustic observations throughout—could be applied to this novel, too. The book is divided into largely stand-alone sections, each of which focuses on a different pair of characters. There is the aforementioned translator, Australian native Céleste, and her married female lover in Paris; budding academic Cassie and her partner, Ash, a Sri Lankan/Scottish scholar in Sydney; Sri Lankan–born Christabel and her girlhood friend, Bunty, who brings her to Australia. Budding writer Pippa is the thread holding all these sections together, making prominent appearances or Hitchcock-ian cameos in the others' lives. These characters give de Kretser, herself a native of Sri Lanka who lives in Sydney, a chance to explore the complexity of societies in the long throes of mistreatment of their ethnic minorities, whether those are Aboriginal people, Indians, Sri Lankans in Australia, or Algerians in Paris. The book’s white characters fancy themselves progressive but move through the world with cringing naiveté: Pippa includes a statement in her automatic email signature that reads, in part, “I pay my respects to Elders, past, present and future. Sent from my iPad.” But if all these sound like dense, heavy ideas (and they are), there is also much pleasure to be found in de Kretser’s lovely prose, whose every sentence fiercely shines.

A thought-provoking novel of both beauty and brains.

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-936787-82-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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