UNTOLD STORY

Despite the bold premise, this gifted writer has, uncharacteristically, settled for less.

Princess Di is alive and well and living incognito in an ordinary American town in this buzzy fourth novel from the British Ali (In the Kitchen, 2009, etc.). 

How did she do it? And why? Those are the biggest questions looming over this speculative fiction. Her movement from one life into another was orchestrated by her top aide and only true confidant, Lawrence Standing. He set up a safe house for her in Brazil, where she was spirited after a nocturnal swim from her yacht. Lawrence oversaw her plastic surgery in Rio and the paperwork for her new identity: Lydia Snaresbrook. As for her reasons, she feared “they” wanted her dead; the press was driving her crazy; most of all, her lifestyle was hurting her boys. This portrait of the princess jibes with the common perception. She was a bundle of contradictions: tough yet fragile; naïve yet suspicious; narcissistic yet empathetic. To these Lawrence adds one more—leaving her boys was both selfish and “her greatest act of selflessness.” Certainly she has been racked by guilt and longing for them in the 10 years since she left. For it’s now 2007, and Lydia has found a comfortable niche in neighborly Kensington. She has her own modest home; a congenial job at a canine shelter; a rock-steady boyfriend, Carson; and three super girlfriends. They don’t pry; she has a good cover story. Lydia is a tamer, emasculated version of the tempestuous Di. The novel has an awkward structure, but its real failing is that Ali has not drilled down into Lydia’s essence. Is she capable of commitment? Unanswered question. By chance, or rather contrivance, there’s a newcomer in town, Grabowski, a paparazzo, one of the Brits who chased Diana. Her extraordinary eyes give her away. Instead of a novel of character, we get the cheap thrill of a cat-and-mouse game, as Grabowski senses the scoop of a lifetime.

Despite the bold premise, this gifted writer has, uncharacteristically, settled for less.

Pub Date: June 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-3548-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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