A smart, quick-witted take on love and friendship, perfect for readers with less starry-eyed views of romance.

Cold Calling

A mopey young Londoner pursues a friendship with an older woman in Mardell’s (Darkshines Seven, 2015, etc.) seriocomic novel with shades of Nick Hornby’s work.

Sad-sack man-child Ray English is staring down his 30th birthday, working a dead-end call-center job, and still hung up on his college girlfriend, Katie, who unceremoniously dumped him five years ago. A self-confessed “intolerable little shit,” he’s nearly exhausted the patience of his lifelong friend and roommate, Danny, who just wants him to stop stewing over the girl who kicked him to the curb. Ray is reforming his old band to perform at an acquaintance’s wedding, which may be the kick in the pants he needs to get his life in gear, but it also means a return to his hometown—and a possible encounter with Katie. Meanwhile, Ray unburdens himself to Anya Belmont, a decade-older married woman whom he happened to cold-call one night at work. The pair never meet face to face but build a friendship by telling each other stories of romantic disasters and relating their skeptical attitudes about love. This thoroughly enjoyable novel offers a clever, contemporary spin on the classic boy-meets-girl plot. Neither Ray nor Anya is particularly likable, but that just makes them more real. Like many spurned lovers, Ray puts his ex on a pedestal without realizing that his reasons for loving her, such as that “she wears good shoes” and has “perfect taste in music,” are juvenile. Wisely, Mardell balances his leading man’s occasionally tedious monologues about relationships with amusing interludes from secondary characters. Particularly welcome is Anya’s friend Eva, a reluctant, albeit wildly successful, children’s book author who hates kids: “How am I supposed to build a career on the back of children’s whims?” she moans. Yet even she turns out to be more complex than she initially seems. Everyone in this book is struggling to determine what it means to be successful in life and love, and Mardell ably captures their challenge of transitioning from youthful optimism to sober adulthood.

A smart, quick-witted take on love and friendship, perfect for readers with less starry-eyed views of romance.  

Pub Date: March 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-78589-121-2

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Troubador Publishing Ltd.

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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