A compulsive traveler himself, Morand may have found this vicarious exercise in unfettered movement an amusing way to pass...

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THE MAN IN A HURRY

Sometime after World War I in France, a compulsively restless antiquarian plies his trade, marries, and contemplates fatherhood in this modern fable.

In a long and sometimes-controversial life, the French author Morand (Venices, 1971, etc.) married a Romanian princess, befriended Proust, was translated by Pound, wrote many fiction and nonfiction books, and collaborated with the Vichy regime. A hint of his apparent anti-Semitism creeps briefly into this novel, which he wrote in 1940-41 in the early months of the Petain government. Its first scene says much about the rest, as 35-year-old Pierre Niox rushes into a tavern and is so intensely impatient for service that he charges to the bar and grabs a glass and bottle himself. Observing him by chance is Dr. Zachary Regencrantz, a German psychologist with whom he discusses his compulsive haste. Thereafter, commonplace actions and leisurely analyses by Pierre and Morand will accompany the overstated theme of haste through a chronological assemblage of events in a year or so of Pierre’s life. He buys an old chapel in the south of France and while renovating it, discovers a Roman cloister, which he eventually sells, as well as a slow-moving mother and three daughters, one of whom he marries. Along the way, his hurrying costs him a butler and close friend, but he scarcely has time for regrets about either. The translation’s prose is refined and worldly, the atmosphere European, the overall effect that of a jeu d’esprit. Where the book rises above that is in the depiction of the minimatriarchy Pierre marries into. The four women’s curious behavior recalls moments in Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels and Eugenides’ Virgin Suicides.

A compulsive traveler himself, Morand may have found this vicarious exercise in unfettered movement an amusing way to pass the time amid the constraints of war and occupation, but it’s not an easily shared pleasure.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-178227-097-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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