A luscious and uplifting tale of personal redemption in the tradition of Eat, Pray, Love.

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THE LITTLE FRENCH BISTRO

A suicidal German woman travels to the French coast, intending to drown herself in the sea, but the allure of a quaint seaside village leads her to continually delay her plans.

Marianne Messman has had enough of her miserable life, especially her cold, controlling husband. After 41 years of marriage, she decides to escape her despair during a package trip to Paris by jumping into the Seine. To her great disappointment, she's pulled from the water by a homeless man and sent directly to the hospital. Stalwart in her resolve to end her life, Marianne absconds from the facility and travels west to Brittany, intending simply to walk deep into the sea. When she arrives in the coastal town of Kerdruc, a series of comical events leads her into a charming French bistro that caters to fishermen and tourists. Although Marianne doesn’t speak French, she somehow ends up in the bistro kitchen, assisting the lovesick, distracted head chef. Within just a few hours at this quaint restaurant, Marianne is introduced to a bewitching cast of characters as well as sensual and spiritual aspects of life that were previously unknown to her. As she grows increasingly excited by new discoveries, which range from the exquisite delight of tasting fresh oysters to the pleasure of wearing brightly colored clothing, Marianne struggles with what to do about her estranged husband and her plans for the future. Translated from its original German, George’s (The Little Paris Bookshop, 2015, etc.) engrossing novel is as much about indulging the senses with succulent dishes and dazzling sights as it is about romance and second chances. With a profound sense of place and sensuous prose, the novel functions as a satisfying virtual visit to the French Riviera.

A luscious and uplifting tale of personal redemption in the tradition of Eat, Pray, Love.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49558-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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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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