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ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL

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

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. 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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