Sophisticated pleasures and a grown-up love story from the estimable Hoban.

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HER NAME WAS LOLA

A quick, droll, pleasantly amusing love story set in London around about now.

Max Lesser—like his creator, Hoban (Angelica’s Grotto, 2001, etc.)—is a novelist and children’s book writer (Max’s novels don’t sell, though his series about a hedgehog, Charlotte Prickles, does very well), but, seemingly unlike Hoban, he’s blocked, long since unable to get “anything that looks like Page One of a new novel” or to get a new hedgehog idea. Then? Well, through the mail slot comes an anonymous CD with a raga on it—and, after Max plays it, things get curiouser and curiouser. Max has a kind of blackout on his way to a lunch date, then is more or less assaulted by an ugly and smelly dwarf who’s groveling almost animal-like on the pavement: this dwarf leaps onto Max’s back and flattens himself there, tangible and visible to poor Max but not to others. What is he? A visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum and a statue there of Shiva reveals that the dwarf, held down under Shiva’s foot (the weight disappears from Max’s back as the dwarf slips back under the foot), is Apasmara Purusha, the “dwarf demon called Forgetfulness.” Another visit, this time to a kind of prophetess named Grace Kowalski, who’s aided by much vodka and another playing of the raga, at last reveals to Max who sent him the CD: Lola Bessington! The reader may be a bit confused as to how Max could ever have forgotten the wonderful Lola, or what her motive really was in sending the raga (she composed the music herself), but there’s no confusion at all as bit by bit Max re-remembers Lola, how much they loved each other, and then the awful, awful, contemptible thing he did to her that ended all—until now, and their near-miraculous, no, their miraculous reunion.

Sophisticated pleasures and a grown-up love story from the estimable Hoban.

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-55970-726-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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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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