An insightful reminder that in the years before gay dating apps zapped the mystery out of erotic pursuit, love between even...

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LIE WITH ME

A bestselling French writer—or at least the novelized version of a bestselling French writer—reckons in older age with a passionate affair he had as a young man.

Written in an almost confessional first-person, Besson’s (His Brother, 2005, etc.) latest is a French bestseller set in the mid-1980s in a small, "gray" Bordeaux town “doomed to disappear.” The narrator, an ambitious high school student and son of the principal, falls deeply for a fellow student, the “slender and distant” Thomas Andrieu, a character in the novel but also apparently an actual person to whom the novel is dedicated. Thomas is beautiful but not worldly; he’s a sensitive, stunted stud who doesn’t see a way out of the town. Different as he and the narrator are, they nonetheless initiate an affair that takes place in hidden rooms on campus and at the narrator’s home when his parents aren’t around. Besson’s initial reluctance to put names to their sex acts (“I am enthralled by his sex," the narrator writes, as if it’s 1822) feels musty, though the author does get more descriptively honest as the story progresses. The love between the two feels real and memorable, and Besson is a thoughtful writer who can strike home with vivid imagery, particularly as he and Thomas age and grow apart and Thomas’ son, Lucas, develops a friendship of sorts with the narrator. The only quibble is that this book, which is deftly translated, doesn’t exactly feel like a novel; it reads like a memoir. In fact, the only thing that keeps it from being garden-variety autofiction is Besson’s willingness to wink at his decision to make fictional an experience that seems to be based in reality.

An insightful reminder that in the years before gay dating apps zapped the mystery out of erotic pursuit, love between even mismatched men could be lifesaving.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9787-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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