This rich, sprawling, ambitious, likably ungainly story—a sequel to Smith's Victorian-period mystery, The Vanished Child (1992), and the middle volume in a projected trilogy—may frustrate connoisseurs of the well-made novel but will amply reward readers seeking a ripping yarn with provocative and substantial things to say. Talented pianist Perdita Halley and Baron Alexander von Reisden now find themselves in Paris in 1910, the year when the Seine overflows, flooding the city and climaxing a bafflingly intricate plot that includes the unsolved murder of a street prostitute nicknamed ``Mona Lisa,'' a scheme to steal from the Louvre the famous painting that is her namesake, and the investigation of charges that the highly marketable works of the late Impressionist painter Claude Mallais may in fact be forgeries, and that Mallais's widow may be something other than the docile helpmate she appears. Smith adroitly grafts onto these intertwining plots the conflict that engrosses the embattled Perdita: whether to pursue the musical career she was surely born for, or to submit instead to her needful lover's embarrassed ultimatum (``I want to be more important than the piano''). The author convincingly evokes the period through hundreds of exquisitely selected details, and makes the vivid secondary characters—including unmistakable simulacra of Colette, Gertrude Stein, and Picasso—altogether credible both as distinctive individuals and as participants in the complex melodrama that surrounds, and unexpectedly transforms, her resourceful heroine. Though it's crammed to bursting with resonant particulars and stylish, often epigrammatic writing, the novel moves rather too slowly—and the convolutions of its narrative are a little too easily foreseen (for example, few will fail to guess the outcome of the Claude Mallais subplot). For all that, the thick ambience, the forthright feminist subtext, and especially Smith's gritty and appealing heroine make for intellectual stimulation of the highest order—and should make most readers impatiently eager for the completion of the trilogy.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-345-39135-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.


Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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