A tedious look at a Boston men's club. The 125-year-old Charles Club, one of the most ruffianly gentlemen's refuges in Beantown—alcohol is regularly and excessively imbued; members know by heart ditties that begin ``Demure despite her nudity,/She gazes quite sans crudity''—is under attack from Demetria Constantine, Chairperson of the Massachusetts Licensing Board. The club, resting on public land, must either begin admitting women or lose its liquor license. A furious debate ensues, with laments on the order of ``So, here it is, the new age, the age of compliance...we must admit one and all: women, queers, paroled criminals, used car salesman.'' It's not just the bad boys who sound like parodies; debut novelist Wensberg (Land's Polaroid, 1987) also fails to flesh out more progressive characters, such as protagonist Owen Lawrence, a recently divorced electrical engineer and new member who believes women will revitalize a stale environment. Owen gets involved with Demetria, unaware of her position during their first drink, and there's some suggestion that his boss, a fellow Charles member, set them up to influence her decision—a development that could have added some spice, except that Wensberg never follows through with either the relationship (after an implausible scene in which Demetria begs Owen to dominate her, she refuses most of his calls) or with the political machinations behind it. Owen remains unconvincingly perplexed and unconcerned about it all. Other characters are equally shallow, from real estate mogul Leslie Sample, the completely apolitical first female club member, to Owen's sleazy, misogynist boss, who seems to have his fingers in every pie but whose aims are never clear. Trying too hard to be wry, Wensberg leaves readers confused about the point of a book that does little to illuminate a virtually extinct way of life.

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 1-877946-58-3

Page Count: 229

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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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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