There is nothing else on earth quite like The Tale of Genji. Utterly irresistible.



An elegant new translation (only the third ever done in English) of the 11th-century tale of court life in medieval Japan that is generally considered the world’s oldest novel.

For much of its great (though not excess) length, the story seems to be that of the eponymous “Shining Prince” Genji, the charismatic son of an emperor and a lowborn concubine. Genji’s fondness for both palace intrigue and illicit love affairs bring him in and out of royal favor, and into intimate contact with such vividly drawn female characters as his own young stepmother Fujitsubo, the daughter (“Third Princess”) of a former emperor who will marry him and turn the tables by cuckolding him, and a passionate noblewoman (Lady Rokujo) whose ghost will let neither Genji nor his many other women rest. The most memorable of them, however, may be the love of Genji’s life, Murasaki, whom he first meets when she’s a child and to whom he remains compulsively devoted and unfaithful, and whose lingering image sends him into the last of his several “self-exiles.” Then, after almost 800 pages, this almost inhumanly vital protagonist dies (“His light was gone, and none among his many descendants could compare to what he had been”). A new plot emerges, in which Genji’s putative son Kaoru (actually fathered by Third Princess’s lover Kashiwagi) struggles with his best friend Niou (who is Genji’s grandson) for the love of beautiful Ukifune, who flees them both, eventually becoming a nun. This ineffably urbane analysis of the permutations and the folly of romantic love can perhaps be compared to Proust, but to little else in Western fiction (it’s actually closer in spirit to the medieval Romance of the Rose). The pseudonymous “Lady Murasaki’s” precise characterizations (particularly of Genji, a marvelous mixture of sexual egoism and genuine innate nobility) are merely the crowning features of an astonishingly rich, absorbing drama that has stood, and will doubtless continue to stand, the severest tests of time and changing literary fashions.

There is nothing else on earth quite like The Tale of Genji. Utterly irresistible.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-03020-1

Page Count: 1200

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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