An appealing little fancy. Display this upfront.


Amusingly damp horror in a fog-bound British bookstore. Don’t touch that shelf!

Despite his many titles and high standing among lovers of babbling madness, Campbell (The Darkest Part of the Woods, 2003, etc.) reveals in his acknowledgments that he found himself short-funded in March 2001 and went to work at a British branch of Borders. He avers that none of the folks in his novel resemble fellow book-shelvers met during those days in the darkest part of the royalty woods. Woody Blake, an American manager for Texts bookstores who has put shops shipshape in New Orleans and Minneapolis, has now been sent to Fenny Meadows Retail Park in northern England to open a giant new Texts store. In the States, such haunts are usually built on an Indian burial ground, but this one is on a fenny meadow—which means things get very misty. And that’s not all. Overnight, books leap from their rightful shelf to that opposite. They resist nightly tidying up after closing hour and lie splayed about come morning. People order books, but orders vanish from computer screens or the book lands among the discards, its inner pages lost and print blurry. Blurry print spreads like a virus. Books get grubby, damp, slimed. Weird damp fog-things (well, squat gray jellies) slurp about the aisles at night. A hit-and-run kills store worker Lorraine in the car park. Another worker, mind-wiped, can no longer make sense of words. And now the bosses are coming for a Christmas-rush inspection of Woody’s work. Horrors: this calls for an overnight with the whole staff pitching in to put the store in order. Power fizzles, something invades and blurs the grey computer screens. And can the inspectors even find the shop in the sodden fog on this sinking soggy tarmac? The mud, the mud! Whole villages long ago sank from sight right here.

An appealing little fancy. Display this upfront.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-765-31299-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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

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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.


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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