An engrossing, impressive debut novel that skillfully charts a young Frenchwoman’s coming-of-age.


A French teenager struggles to navigate her relationships with her famous parents in this moody bildungsroman.

Margot Louve’s life changes forever when she and her mother, Anouk, a successful stage actress, see her father’s wife outside a cafe in Paris. Suddenly, Margot begins to question the secret life that her father, Bertrand Lapierre, the French Minister of Culture, and her formidable, unconventional mother have built together. Though Margot adores her father, who remains a frequent presence in her life, his identity must remain a secret to the rest of the world. When faced with the reality of his other, public life and family, Margot begins to yearn for her father to leave his wife and takes a reckless step to encourage him to do so. This debut novel by Lemoine, a French Japanese writer who currently lives in New York, explores Margot’s relationships not only with her parents, but also with Brigitte and David, two older, married journalists with whom she develops an ambiguous, sexually fraught relationship. Lemoine excels at teasing out the ambivalent contours of relationships between teenagers and adults. At 17, Margot teeters between childhood and adulthood: Both insightful and immature, she is eager to be treated like a grown-up. Frustrated by adults who treat her like a child, she is drawn to people who seem to take her seriously. But these relationships are not straightforward, and as the book progresses, Margot reevaluates her ideas about Brigitte, David, and her parents. Though the novel is largely concerned with Margot’s interior emotional state, it moves at a satisfyingly quick pace, and Lemoine’s prose is visually and emotionally precise: “If she abandoned me,” Margot thinks of Anouk, “I’d have a concrete reason to blame her, other than this confused feeling of unhappiness.”

An engrossing, impressive debut novel that skillfully charts a young Frenchwoman’s coming-of-age.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984854-43-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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A quick, biting critique of the publishing industry.

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What happens when a midlist author steals a manuscript and publishes it as her own?

June Hayward and Athena Liu went to Yale together, moved to D.C. after graduation, and are both writers, but the similarities end there. While June has had little success since publication and is struggling to write her second novel, Athena has become a darling of the publishing industry, much to June’s frustration. When Athena suddenly dies, June, almost accidentally, walks off with her latest manuscript, a novel about the World War I Chinese Labour Corps. June edits the novel and passes it off as her own, and no one seems the wiser, but once the novel becomes a smash success, cracks begin to form. When June faces social media accusations and staggering writer’s block, she can’t shake the feeling that someone knows the truth about what she’s done. This satirical take on racism and success in the publishing industry at times veers into the realm of the unbelievable, but, on the whole, witnessing June’s constant casual racism and flimsy justifications for her actions is somehow cathartic. Yes, publishing is like this; finally someone has written it out. At times, the novel feels so much like a social media feed that it’s impossible to stop reading—what new drama is waiting to unfold. and who will win out in the end? An incredibly meta novel, with commentary on everything from trade reviews to Twitter, the ultimate message is clear from the start, which can lead to a lack of nuance. Kuang, however, does manage to leave some questions unanswered: fodder, perhaps, for a new tweetstorm.

A quick, biting critique of the publishing industry.

Pub Date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9780063250833

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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