A CHOICE OF MURDER

A closer look at Timoleon of Syracuse—most fortunate in virtue of all Plutarch's heroes—in a first US publication for this prolific British author. The great crisis in Timo's life comes early, when he confronts his casually contemptuous older brother Timophanes, a bold warrior who's become known as the Despot of Corinth. Though Timo had once saved Timophanes' life in the heat of battle—a bit of heroism for which he'd received neither reward nor acknowledgment—he kills Timophanes when he refuses to forswear his tyranny. Spurned by his mother and the state, Timo is sent into a 20-year exile—then abruptly besought by a mission in rebellion against Hicetas, leader of the Leontine forces occupying Syracuse. With the help of such trusted advisors as Apelles, leader of the rebellion, and Theodotos, a savagely misanthropic cynic he'd met during his exile, Timo goes from strength to strength, repulsing the Leontines, purging Syracuse of mercenaries, and finally pushing on to a great victory over the Carthaginians at Crimesus. But all his successes, from his reputation as the Liberator of Syracuse to his extraordinary acclaim in the defeat of Carthage, remain strangely static and distant here—even Vansittart's big set-piece, the battle at Crimesus, glides by like a massive frieze—until the aging, revered Timo lapses imperceptibly into the reverie of disintegration that his civic virtue has been portending from the beginning. ``The craft of survival is in endlessly surprising oneself,'' says Timo—a remark worthy of Plutarch's own sententiousness, and indicative of Vansittart's concentrated, enigmatic, and elegantly cumulative portrait.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 1993

ISBN: 0-7206-0832-5

Page Count: 216

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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