A rambunctious fictionalized autobiography (originally published in 1977 in England) about the life of a 20th-century American tycoon. Episodic and lively, the novel has a great deal of fun with its subject but finally turns a grotesque figure into a touching (if not quite poignant) version of Falstaff—instinct- driven, hypocritical, but life-affirming. Tornado Pratt lives up to his first name. Pratt, purportedly telling his life history to Horace (who, we learn later, is an illegitimate son), is dying in a hotel as he remembers his life, sometimes chronologically, sometimes helter-skelter, in a brash, cocky voice that has enough range to entertain the big questions from time to time. Pratt, born in Kansas, leaves home at 16 to find his fortune, first in the Marines, then in Chicago, where he soon has the second-largest meat-packing operation in the city (``Don't ask me how I did it, Horace, because I can't tell you. All I know is I never put a foot wrong''). The rest of the story displays Pratt's consuming zest for life through good times and bad. Pratt lives through his share of lust and violence in Chicago, including an odd encounter with a ``perverted little gunman'' who thinks he's gay; travels to Europe and to England; and marries Nathalie, a peer's daughter. He calls her his great love and bemoans her horrifying death from cancer, but Ableman deftly allows the narrative to unpeel Pratt's voracious infidelity and dramatize his nature—an authentic hunger that takes him piecemeal and slapdash through the world he wants to grasp and understand. Britisher Ableman creates a plausible, complex representative of America. If he lacks Bellow's grasp of the grit of American character, he makes up for it by giving Pratt an appetite as large as Bellow's Henderson. Fine entertainment.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1992

ISBN: 0-929701-25-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1992

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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