With prose that's alternately tough and tender (Dashiell Hammett meets Rilke), as well as downright wacky, Romanian ÇmigrÇ Manea (Compulsory Happiness, 1993, etc.) offers another of his dense and often caustic views of modern eastern Europe. No one would dispute Manea's skill as a wordsmith—to do so with lines like ``The suspect sun is called Thursday. Still a century to go until Friday'' would be to join the same orchestra of folly that many of his characters play for. But one could easily fault him for laying the metaphors on too thick. It's endlessly difficult here to figure out what's standing in for what. Bucharest, in the throes of a ``happy spring,'' finds Tolea Voinov struggling with a web of vague conspiracy and lingering communist paranoia. Fired from his teaching job, Tolea is working as a receptionist at a hotel while investigating the suspicious death of his father—a Sorbonne-educated philosopher who fled Bucharest with his extensive wine cellar 40 years earlier. The wildly outspoken Tolea becomes more meditative as the novel wears on, and he familiarizes himself with the odd collection of cosmopolitan shut-ins who'll lead him to the photographer whose albums may provide the key to his puzzles. First, however, he must contend with a secret society of deaf-mutes that issues periodic, cryptic reports on his progress. In the classic Stanislaw Lem fashion of Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, Manea formulates Tolea's struggle as one pitted against an obsessive, anonymous bureaucracy bent on ensuring that ``nothing gets lost: everything is transformed— signs, substitutes, and invisible networks.'' None of this, though, prevents Tolea from participating in one of fiction's zestier sex scenes, during which he pumps ``the lava of the fiery night'' into a woman who asks him for a match. Nothing new, but the telling is handled in such a preposterously slippery way that it frequently seems so.

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-374-11397-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.


Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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