The heady first days of a relationship and the daily hardships of a life on the edge create narrative tension that builds...


Second novel from British author House (Bruiser, not reviewed): an intricate, tangled tale about two weeks of romance and violence in squatters’ London.

Ian is a new face in the London demimonde, squatting with two others in a house scheduled for renovation while working as a temp in a government benefits office. In the matter of a few days, his squatmate Malc is hospitalized after falling down stairs in suspicious circumstances, Ian quits his job (he doesn’t like being reprimanded for making mistakes), and police evict the squatters. Luckily, Ian can turn for financial support and a place to sleep to his older, more settled friend Gordon, who fancies him. Ian begins to realize that something sinister was going on at the squat involving Malc’s thuggish brother Terry, but although he finds some clues (a list of names, a bunch of pills), what exactly happened eludes him. He’s sidetracked by his new job as a bike messenger, which he enjoys for the mobility it provides as well as the strange new world it reveals. And he’s attracted to alluring South African/Irish Peter, a fellow messenger with a professional attitude who got Ian the gig after a chance encounter on the street. They begin a tender, tentative relationship just as Ian finally pieces together the reason for Malc’s “accident”: a benefits scam by Terry, whose accomplice was the now-jealous Gordon. In the marginal world Ian inhabits, this knowledge makes him a marked man.

The heady first days of a relationship and the daily hardships of a life on the edge create narrative tension that builds steadily but in unexpected ways: the result is a story memorable in its complexity and depth.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-85242-438-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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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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