A romantic bildungsroman, uneven in places but refreshingly unsentimental, narrated by a woman in the middle of a marital...

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In prizewinning Swiss writer Schwitter's (Goldfish Memory, 2015, etc.) new novel, a novelist is writing a book about her past loves.

Fueled by nostalgia and intimations of mortality, a married writer with two young children googles her first love and discovers that he committed suicide. So begins a discursive "chronology of men." "How many loves does anyone have?" she muses. "The way I count depends on what I tell." Though chiefly romantic, the 12-man lineup that follows also includes loves platonic, familial, and imaginary. There is a 12-year relationship with a handsome actor, sex with a stranger in a public urinal in Berlin, an affair with a lecherous mentor, a flirtation with a writing student. Although the book is structured around the men in her life, the narrator's most vivid connections seem to be the ones with her dog and her deceased grandmother, who used to tell her, among other things, "Love is not something you choose, dear heart." The present intrudes into the narrative in the form of an unexpected calamity brought about by her husband. "It's your own fault if you think you can tame, order, channel life by writing," the narrator chides herself. On impulse, she leaves children and husband and takes the dog to Zurich, where she grew up, by train. "I'd like to have my own apartment," she thinks. "My own mailbox. No one else's mail, no one else's problems."  In a surprise twist, the final chapter introduces a character who predates the others. "I tried to tell the story without you but it won't work." Although he casts a long shadow for her, the lateness of his entrance mutes a loss that would otherwise register more deeply.

A romantic bildungsroman, uneven in places but refreshingly unsentimental, narrated by a woman in the middle of a marital crisis.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89255-497-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Persea Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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