A novel that veers out of control, obliterating its setup and dulling Ammaniti’s admired edge as a satirist.



In contemporary Rome, a satanic caper implodes in this latest from the well-regarded Italian (Me and You, 2012, etc.).

When is a satanic sect no longer a sect? When it’s down to three losers and an uncharismatic leader. The Wilde Beasts of Abaddon would accept that harsh judgment. The four Romans are dejected and spiritless. Other disciples have quit. When they sacrificed a student and buried her alive, she dug her way out; then Silvietta became the girlfriend of Murder, another acolyte (Stockholm syndrome?). Their leader, Saverio, blames himself for their troubles. Henpecked by his wife, humiliated by his father-in-law (he manages his furniture store), he needs a release for his submerged hate. Then an opportunity arrives. The celebrity singer Larita, a convert to Christianity from Satanism, is the star attraction at an event where the Beasts will be moonlighting. They’ll behead her with the sword Saverio’s bought on eBay and then kill themselves. Their deliberations need a light touch which Ammaniti doesn’t quite achieve. Nor is it helpful that he develops a parallel storyline about the best-selling novelist Fabrizio Ciba. An unappealing narcissist with writer’s block, Fabrizio reflects Italian publishing’s fierce infighting but adds little to the mix. The storylines converge at a spectacular event organized by Chiatti, a real estate mogul and avatar of relentless vulgarity. He has bought one of Rome’s oldest parks to stage not just Larita’s concert, but three separate hunts (fox, tiger and lion). The Beasts’ silly scheme dissolves in squabbling over the suicide pact and, anyway, is overshadowed by the ruckus of the hunts. Fabrizio and Larita are thrown off an elephant; an art dealer is eaten by crocodiles; and in a surreal twist, defecting Soviet athletes and their subhuman spawn, living in the catacombs since the 1960 Rome Olympics, emerge to wreak havoc.

A novel that veers out of control, obliterating its setup and dulling Ammaniti’s admired edge as a satirist.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2111-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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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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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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