A boisterous retread of the Bard’s classic, minus the elegant writing and psychological complexity.


A righteous daughter reclaims her father’s kingdom in this rendition of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Cordelia, 16-year-old daughter of Britain’s King Lear, opens this debut novel by vigorously applying her knee to the groin of Mundred, bastard son of the earl of Gloucester and would-be rapist, the first of her many attacks on toxic masculinity. She’s the innocent eye of a hurricane of ambition and treachery. Her elder sisters, Regan and Goneril, hatch rival plans to maneuver their respective husbands, the dukes of Cornwall and Albany, into seizing the throne. Both women also take the loathsome Mundred as a lover. Mundred orchestrates his own rise to power by murdering Gloucester, Cornwall, and Albany and raising a revolt against Lear, who placates him by naming Cordelia heir to the throne and promising him her hand. Alarmed at Mundred’s machinations, Cordelia vents increasingly strident indignation at Lear’s dithering refusal to punish him, and their relationship gets really nasty. (Father: “You’re a whore. And so was your mother.” Daughter: “I should hope my mother was a whore. I should hope she enjoyed making you a cuckold.”) Lear duly disinherits Cordelia and abdicates his crown to Regan and Goneril, which precipitates more bloodshed and war—and here the tale veers from dynastic melodrama into populist crusade. Cordelia, accompanied by Mundred’s sexy but passive half brother, Garred, goes to live among the peasantry and launches a class struggle—“The lives and happiness of working people depend upon their being secure in the ownership of the property they’ve accumulated through their labor,” she declaims—against aristocratic privilege. Fritsch’s ambitious version of the Lear saga has a raucous feminist energy to it, especially as the brash Cordelia develops a zest for slitting the throats of male miscreants. Unfortunately, the characters feel like cardboard—Regan and Goneril are cartoonishly bitchy; Mundred is a transparent psychopath; and Lear is simply a dunce for not heeding everyone’s advice to hang the monstrous villain—and the dialogue is not exactly poetic (“I wish to tell every other person in this kingdom what they may and may not do,” chortles Goneril). Readers who love the original may want to stick with it.

A boisterous retread of the Bard’s classic, minus the elegant writing and psychological complexity.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9978829-4-0

Page Count: 195

Publisher: Asymmetric Worlds

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

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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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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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