Readers who enjoy a slower-paced novel will find this character-driven tale interesting and thought-provoking.

THE LAST KINGS OF SARK

The past and present join together in a tale of a summer love that weaves its tendrils around three young hearts and still grows there decades later.

It’s the summer before 16-year-old Pip goes to university, and his father has hired two girls to spend July and August at their home on Sark—a British Channel island off the coast of Normandy. Twenty-one-year-old Jude arrives to tutor Pip; Sofi, 19, becomes the family’s cook. Pip’s ailing mother seldom ventures downstairs, so when Pip’s father is away on business, the three free themselves from responsibilities and explore the island and grow close. Summer drifts by and ends in a confused tangle—“a hot, melted knot”—the day before Jude flies home. Thus ends the first 29 chapters, originally written as a novella for which Rankin-Gee received the Shakespeare and Co. prize (2011); they reveal her ability to create vital characters and paint wonderfully with words. The three young people are well-drawn, and the dialogue is fresh and vibrant, but the story lacks a strong plot; it's a cerebral tale made up of Jude’s thoughts and sharp observations but one that lacks forward momentum. Later, Rankin-Gee added additional chapters, giving readers a peek into the subsequent lives of Jude, Sofi and Pip, each still affected by their long-ago summer on Sark. Alternating chapters narrated by each of the three characters serve to address the unasked question at the end of the first half of the novel: “So who loved whom, exactly?” But there's an odd sense of disjointedness: Answers are hinted at, alluded to, leaving the reader to make leaps; and though the final chapters provide some closure, they raise as many questions as they answer…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Readers who enjoy a slower-paced novel will find this character-driven tale interesting and thought-provoking.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-04535-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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