TRANSGRESSIONS

A London Czech translator threatened by a rapist goes after her tormentor with a vengeance—in this straight-suspense holiday from Dunant’s Hannah Wolfe detective stories (Under My Skin, 1995, etc.). The false notes in Elizabeth Skvorecky’s life begin so quietly that she assumes she’s imagining things—the Van Morrison CD that’s disappeared from her collection, the replacement CD that vanishes from her disc player. Surely there’s no reason for her departed lover Tom, a classical music buff, to have helped himself to music he despised. And Tom himself, though not above a supercilious sneer when Lizzie calls to ask him to return his housekey, ends up sending back the key, and a Van Morrison disk to boot. But then somebody repeatedly breaks into her house, marking his place with uncanny signatures’stacking up all her CDs in a neat pile, setting the kitchen table for two, spattering the manuscript she’s been translating with ketchup—and leaving Lizzie almost as confused as frightened. What’s going on here? The locksmith she calls to beef up her security respectfully suggests she may be harboring a poltergeist; the local vicar she consults talks about outbursts of suppressed emotion. Then, shortly after Lizzie’s responded to her importunate friends by pulling herself away from the translating job long enough to restart her sex life, she confronts her nemesis, a hammer-wielding rapist, face to face. So far everything has been routine, if breathlessly so; but with Lizzie’s obligatory scene with the intruder, which she transforms from rape to edgy seduction, Dunant strikes out into new territory, as Lizzie declines to call the police on the departed attacker, determining to hunt him down herself, and baiting a trap for him with salaciously, subversively altered passages from her translation, and with the promise of settling scores with her for good. An unsettling, often chilling, portrait of a compulsive predator and the woman who refuses to be his prey.

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-039248-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1998

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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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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