They’re the same age. They look almost the same. Yet their backgrounds are strikingly different. Kevin Thunder, the...


The Irish filmmaker offers a doppelgänger novel about the entwined lives of two Dubliners, as his sixth work of fiction (Shade, 2004, etc.). 

They’re the same age. They look almost the same. Yet their backgrounds are strikingly different. Kevin Thunder, the narrator, lives on Dublin’s impoverished northside, while Gerry Spain is from the well-heeled southside; the class antagonisms are raw. Kevin’s father is a bookie; Gerry’s is a lawyer, later a judge. Kevin’s rough-and-tumble schooling is far inferior to Gerry’s fancy private school. Their lives, however, will overlap for some 40 years, from their adolescence in the 1960s to Gerry’s death in his mid 50s (his funeral opens and closes the novel). Kevin finds himself being mistaken for Gerry: ejected from a store for shoplifting, approached invitingly by a girlfriend. Amid the confusion he has one dependable ally: his beloved mother, the caretaker of their building’s apartments. His father is often away, and Kevin is happy to replace him (there are Oedipal overtones). Mother and son go swimming together until one day, alone, she drowns. Jordan is at his best depicting their tender solicitude and Kevin’s coming-of-age encounters with Gerry’s girls. His touch is less sure with Kevin/Gerry. They eventually meet in a series of edgy encounters. By now Gerry is an undergraduate at well-manicured Trinity, while Kevin’s at a trade school; Gerry, shy and insecure, uses Kevin’s name for his published stories. The ladies still get them confused. “Were we…the light and shade of the same person?” It’s the classic dilemma posed by the genre. Jordan plays with it, offsetting Kevin’s weak light against the increasingly dark, addicted, adulterous Gerry, but years pass before he ratchets up the tension. The climax, flashy and camera-ready, involves impersonation and murder in Manhattan, but it seems less ordained than arbitrary.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59376-433-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...


Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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