Intelligent, complex, and ambitious, with symbols and structure that have life and movement, while the psychology at the...


A poetic, almost successful debut tale of a small-town girl who’s in love—in about equal parts—with the sea, her absent father, and a man named Jude.

That the narrator often seems younger than her 19 years may be due partly to the influence of the seedy, parochial, decrepit little seaside town where she lives—the town her father mysteriously disappeared from 11 years back, leaving wife and daughter to catch as catch can. “We don’t move away,” she tells us, “ . . . because we are waiting for him to return.” And the wait, it’s hard for a reader to deny, feels long as the girl aches incessantly not only for her father but for the love of 33-year-old Jude, whom she met once when she was wading in the sea—and Jude was coming out of it, thus reminding her of her father, who may (not an absolute certainty) have disappeared into it. Jude and the girl become fast friends but not lovers—nor, however much she yearns for sex with him, do they become lovers later, in the novel’s present time, after Jude has gone to and returned from the first Iraq war. After Iraq, he’s different—inward, melancholy, “war-torn.” And sexually unresponsive. And so things are frozen, halted. Only as Hunt turns farther toward a lyric magic realism where the real, symbolic, and imaginary blend, is it possible for the story’s resolution to occur. The trouble is, though, that all hangs on Jude’s war traumas, which have an inserted and prepackaged feel, and, further, don’t provide change but only shock. Dream, madness, error, and sorrow, plus another strange and magical encounter, will at last bring everything to an end, if not a close.

Intelligent, complex, and ambitious, with symbols and structure that have life and movement, while the psychology at the base of it all remains stubbornly—and unsatisfyingly—inert.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2004

ISBN: 1-931561-85-0

Page Count: 196

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2004

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

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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.


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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