Wholly enthralling, these stories gleam with human desire and malice and hope as they move between Tolstoy’s Russia, World...



Loneliness and lust eddy through the pages of a dexterous collection of short stories by Tremain (Merivel, 2013, etc.).

It opens with the title story, in which a British teenager, Beth, is seduced by an American photographer named Thaddeus, a man her father’s age, in 1960s London. He takes her to Paris, where they stay in a skimpily furnished apartment overlooking Montparnasse Cemetery and go to bed with a woman named Fred. Back in London, Thaddeus vanishes just as Beth realizes she’s pregnant. After an abortion, she turns their affair into a roman à clef that brings fame and fortune but no closure. The written word proves altogether more potent in “The Housekeeper,” which imagines a passionate relationship between “Miss du Maurier” and one Mrs. Danowski, the fictitious inspiration for Rebecca’s Mrs. Danvers. Years later, living slenderly in a room by the sea, Danowski reflects on how she’s been shaped by du Maurier’s decision to make a villain out of her: “I think I am probably frightening to look at, ugly in fact, as ugly as she made me in the book.” Lost love of all varieties drives other stories, too. Debt forces a man to sell the apple orchards he grew up among; a war widow is forced to part with her only child when her in-laws pay for a posh boarding school; an adolescent girl observes her friend stride on ahead toward adulthood without her. Throughout, melancholy is offset by Tremain’s worldliness, her quick wit and the sheer joy that’s to be had from characterization as deft as this: “She was a stumpy little person, optimistically named Patience.”

Wholly enthralling, these stories gleam with human desire and malice and hope as they move between Tolstoy’s Russia, World War II France and present-day London.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-24671-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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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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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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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