Lapeyre writes with great wit and sly craft on the miseries of unfulfilled relationships.

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LIFE IS SHORT AND DESIRE ENDLESS

One need look no further than the apt title to uncover the frustrations of the two main male characters.

At one point in the novel one of Nora Neville’s lovers wonders whether “she secretes an active substance when she comes in contact with men, one that singlehandedly makes them fall at her feet,” and after a brief acquaintance, the reader is persuaded that this is an accurate depiction of her singular powers. Although she’s reputed to have many lovers, Lapeyre focuses on two: Murphy Blomdale, an American businessman living in London, and Louis Blériot, a hapless Parisian even more desperately in love with the elusive and provocative Nora. Blériot is a translator, and when the novel opens he hasn’t heard from Nora for two long and anguished years, but he gets a phone call—fortuitously on Ascension Day—and they rekindle their relationship. Although Blomdale had been sharing an apartment with Nora, Blériot is more secretive and constrained, of necessity because he’s married to Sabine, a French intellectual in whom he’s lost interest since his introduction to the alluring Nora. Blériot can be either ecstatic or miserable in her company, depending on how capricious she happens to be at a given moment, while Blomdale is a bit more circumspect—but still generally miserable. Eventually Blériot and Blomdale meet—almost accidentally—in London when Blériot can’t stand his life without Nora anymore (and not so coincidentally finds his marriage falling apart) and so goes to London to seek out some of her old haunts.

Lapeyre writes with great wit and sly craft on the miseries of unfulfilled relationships.

Pub Date: June 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59051-484-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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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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