Murray manages the trick of being thoughtful and entertaining. His creative energy sends the book in many directions, making...



A darkly comic, lightly metafictional tale about a banker seeking love and a novelist seeking wealth amid the fallout from the financial boom and bust in Ireland.

Claude Martingale, a well-paid analyst in the Bank of Torabundo’s Dublin office, finds his routine upset when a man named Paul asks if he can trail Claude as research for his next novel. It isn’t long before Claude discovers the research actually entails casing his bank, one of several moneymaking schemes Paul undertakes. Still, the two men form a cautious friendship, and Paul tries to help shy Claude talk up the Greek waitress Ariadne, while Claude tries to prod Paul back to the writing he's fled since his first novel was panned. Murray (Skippy Dies, 2010, etc.), the real and well-reviewed novelist named Paul, offers his alter ego’s scams as humorous microcosm to the avaricious inventions still common in the financial world two years after Lehman Brothers collapsed. Other parallels abound. Just as fictional Paul has a delightfully profane Russian sidekick, the bank’s hedge fund chief relies on a Russian math whiz and his “providential antinomies” that “monetize failure.” Ariadne has a rant on Greece’s financial chaos as preview for where Ireland is headed. A writer quits that trade to become an artist who turns his written pages into art within a frame. So Murray creates the novel his other Paul is meant to produce at the urging of a guilt-ridden banker and another character who asks, “when are our writers going to address the banking crisis?” The speaker is the powerful critic who slammed fictional Paul’s debut.

Murray manages the trick of being thoughtful and entertaining. His creative energy sends the book in many directions, making it a little loose and lumpy, but the same may be said of Dickens, with whom real Paul also shares wit, sympathy, and a purposeful sense of mischief.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-86547-755-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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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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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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