Former political correspondent Vaughan makes an impressive debut with this savvy, propulsive courtroom drama.

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ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL

A handsome British politician—also the prime minister’s oldest, closest friend—finds himself on trial for rape.

Sophie Whitehouse adores her husband, James, a junior minister in the British Home Office. Watching him leave with their son and daughter one Friday morning, “she feels a stab of love so fierce she pauses on the stairs just to drink in the tableau of the three of them together." But James is uncharacteristically late coming home that night, arriving only to confess—in advance of the tabloid headlines—that he’s had an affair with his assistant, Olivia. That would have been enough to shatter Sophie’s world, but 11 days later, he’s arrested; Olivia has filed charges of rape. James’ trial brings together two formidable female barristers, one of them Kate Woodcroft, “a highly experienced specialist in prosecuting sexual crimes; forty-one years old; divorced; single; and childless,” and for the defense, Angela Regan, just as determined to see James go free as Kate is to see him found guilty. And both women know this depends far less on the truth than on their adversarial and persuasive skills. As the trial proceeds, seen alternately from Kate’s, Sophie’s, and James’ points of view, a second storyline unfolds in the early 1990s featuring a character named Holly. Holly is studying English at Oxford, as was Sophie; James is there, too, and his friend Tom, the future prime minister. All of them are involved in a nasty series of events that is not revealed until the end of the book. When the secrets finally come out, there are a few jarring details, but the momentum of the story thunders over them. Because the author leaves room for readers to consider for themselves the issues of consent and intent in rape, particularly in partner rape, this novel is a strong choice for book clubs.

Former political correspondent Vaughan makes an impressive debut with this savvy, propulsive courtroom drama.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7216-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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