Hook’s voice is at once seductive and frantic; the feverish, hallucinatory quality of the prose makes the book hard to...

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KENSINGTON GARDENS

Dark-hearted, sinuously plotted journey into the world of children’s literature.

Peter Hook, the narrator of this novel, is a classically paranoid personality. Raised in London, the child and intellectual heir of two troubled and brilliant ’60s dilettantes, he has lost the ability to make the distinction between fact and fiction, his own memories and the stories he has absorbed throughout his life. The structuring event of Peter’s life is the death of his younger brother when both were children. After his brother dies, his parents spend their time in frantic pursuit of an artistic mode angry and eloquent enough to express their loss. Peter, similarly haunted, turns to books and films, believing himself to be the only true citizen of the tribe of Peter Pan’s lost boys. He devours books, films, biographies, music and becomes a writer himself, authoring the Jim Yang series of children’s books. The novel is organized around Peter Hook’s psychic break; he has kidnapped Keiko Kai, a young boy set to play Jim Yang in a film. Peter tells the whole story to Keiko in a single night, obsessively noting the coincidences between his own life and the life of J.M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan. Both lost their brothers, both turned to children’s books as a way to express their outrage and sorrow, and both failed, according to Peter’s narrative, to find peace through writing. The text moves between a carefully researched and deeply felt biography of J.M. Barrie and the Davies children for whom Peter Pan was created, and an emotionally brutal description of Hook’s youth, spent under the benignly neglectful care of narcissistic adults. Barrie’s and Hook’s lives intertwine and reference one another, and the text moves effortlessly between the present and the past, which Hook stitches together with a series of cultural references drawn from the 19th-century London stage, Scottish folk songs, films of every decade, the Beatles song book and, of course, every version of Peter Pan.

Hook’s voice is at once seductive and frantic; the feverish, hallucinatory quality of the prose makes the book hard to resist.

Pub Date: June 13, 2006

ISBN: 0-374-18101-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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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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