A Republican congressman from New York makes an unfortunate excursion into the politics of Ireland in this debut describing Ulster’s Troubles of the early 1980s. A novel written by a politician ought to be regarded much as Dr. Johnson looked upon the dancing bear: One is impressed not so much that it is done well, but that it is done at all. That said, it must still be pointed out that Congressman King has given us a piece of IRA agitprop that Brendan Behan himself wouldn—t be able to read with a straight face. Set mostly in Belfast, the story concerns Bernadette Hanlon, a heroic Catholic housewife and mother whose husband Dermot (an IRA member) is imprisoned under special antiterrorism laws on the testimony of an informer. While he’s locked away in Castlereagh Gaol, Bernadette contents herself at first with visiting him as often as she can and keeping his spirits up with news of home and children—but circumstances soon force her into a more complex role. She’s asked, as an aggrieved IRA wife, to help organize and canvass for the local Sinn Fein candidate, and she succeeds so well that she comes to the attention of Gerry Adams himself, who takes a personal interest in her husband’s case. The judicial bane of Irish terrorists in the 1980s was the ’supergrass” (or ’snake in the grass—) system—by which uncorroborated evidence from paid informers was admitted into criminal proceedings—and Bernadette now becomes a prominent spokesman against it. She travels to the US to speak to pro-IRA groups, and at home she assassinates a prominent Catholic politician who was a secret informer. Eventually, her efforts—along with some pressure from US politicians—get her husband’s case reopened. Straight-faced propaganda, without a hint of irony, a shade of complexity, or a suggestion of depth: If King is looking for a photo-op with Gerry Adams, he’s earned it.

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-57098-262-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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