Good old-fashioned melodrama, with plenty of sex and scheming.

SCORPIO RISING

In Domovitch’s debut novel, the fates of an ambitious young American architect and a beautiful Parisian painter intertwine.

The novel tells the parallel stories of Alex Ivanov, who’s at the onset of a promising career in architecture, and Brigitte Dartois, who escapes a string of dishonorable men to make a career as a painter. Spanning from the late-1940s to the 1960s, the novel follows Alex and Brigitte as they come of age, take control of their destinies and begin to see their respective stars rise. Born in poverty to a single, Russian-immigrant mother, Alex single-mindedly pursues his ambition, working night and day to learn his trade and establish himself. With no time for love or marriage, he uses his powerful good looks to seduce and leave a string of women; an entanglement with sexy Anne Turner, a secretary at his firm with an agenda of her own, threatens to cost him his hard-won position. Brigitte, who left home as a teenager, finds a job in a glamorous department store and becomes the target of her married boss’ extravagant attentions; he buys her a new wardrobe and sets her up in a lavish apartment. Upon realizing his motives, she flees to start a new life in Montmartre, selling her paintings in the market. Against the odds, Alex and Brigitte meet in Paris. They’re both uncertain about the future, but they find themselves drawn to each other despite their great differences. The novel has its flaws: The plot and characters are a bit generic, and many of Alex and Brigitte’s troubles result from the machinations of stock villains. The historical period is perfunctorily set, but Domovitch commendably handles the story, weaving together multiple subplots while creating passionate, ambitious characters who fight for what they want. She allows Alex and Brigitte enough complexity to prevent their eventual romance from seeming saccharine, although it’s not clear whether things will turn out well for them. The ambiguity and ominous developments that conclude the novel serve to dramatically set the stage for the novel’s sequel, The Sting of the Scorpio (2011), which follows the lovers to America.

Good old-fashioned melodrama, with plenty of sex and scheming.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463790738

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Lansen Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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