An intelligent tale of a family still haunted by a murder long-ago in far-away Kenya. British writer Blake (Waiting for the Sea to Be Blue, not reviewed, etc.) deftly evokes the country now and as it was in the last days of the Raj in this story of London banker Michael Ballantyne. With a glittering rÇsumÇ, an old family name, and a career in the making, Michael lacks only a wife. Then he meets Olivia Jones in his dentist's office, of all places, and is smitten. Olivia falls for him, too, but she's hardly typical banker's-wife material: Her mother Eugenie is living in a hospital for the insane, and Olivia herself is about to head off to the Kenya desert, hoping to convince her brother David, a teacher at a mission school, to visit Eugenie, whom he has not seen since she was tried for murder. When Olivia somehow goes astray in the wilds, Michael flies out to Kenya to find her—and, while awaiting news, hears the family's story from her Aunt Jessie. He discovers how Eugenie fled Africa and her handsome scoundrel husband, Gareth, for England, bringing their children along; how she later became reconciled with Gareth and was persuaded to rush back to Kenya, where he again abandoned her. Eugenie, penniless and pregnant with David, permitted childless Harry and June Crane, whom she'd met on the boat from England, to adopt him. But, increasingly unable to accept the adoption, she began stalking the child, the poignantly absent yet not hopelessly distant object of her increasingly deranged affection. Finally, the accidental death of her older son led her to attack June fatally with a knife. Now, back in the desert, Olivia, ill and dehydrated, is rescued by a tribesman. The lovers are eventually reunited, although not before Michael has been tested severely by people and a way of life alien to the board room and the Ballantyne estate. A refreshingly sensible take on sensational crime.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-75280-162-7

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Orion/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

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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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