A paperback romance tarted up with literary and aesthetic scenery that has no effect on its Harlequin prose (“Kate’s flesh...

BROKEN BODIES

A slow and rather tedious love story, and first US publication, from Emerson throws together two historians obsessed with the same woman and lets nature take its course.

Historians Patrick Browning and Anne Fitzgerald are both wounded types, more or less permanently disappointed in their lovers and friends, and they become themselves by looking back across two centuries to find a world that is more congenial. They first meet at the British Museum, where they argue over the Elgin Marbles (Patrick thinks they belong in Greece) and take a mild dislike to each other. Although they don’t know it until much later, they’re both working on a biography of Mary Nisbet, Lord Elgin’s wife, who was tried for adultery in a scandalous 1803 trial. As their separate manuscripts near completion, Patrick and Anne become aware of each other (through their publishers) as rivals—and Anne hears rumors that Patrick has secretly purchased a cache of Mary Nisbet’s private journals from a shady antiquarian. A gang of thugs soon begins to terrorize Patrick on the streets at night, repeatedly roughing him up and ordering him to “go back to America.” Garden-variety skinheads? Something more sinister? Then Patrick’s flat is broken into and robbed—of nothing but the diaries. He confronts Elizabeth, accusing her of theft—only to find himself swept into her bed. They both have (married) lovers of their own, but they’re unable to keep apart from each other—just as they find themselves locked in a cutthroat competition to publish the first exhaustive biography of Mary Nisbet. Why don’t they just collaborate, you ask? Well, what kind of story would that make?

A paperback romance tarted up with literary and aesthetic scenery that has no effect on its Harlequin prose (“Kate’s flesh had been hot and solid and sweet, tasting of flowers”) or cornball plot.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-349-11512-5

Page Count: 295

Publisher: Abacus/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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