A freshly rendered tale of growing up and living in the world by a late-starting author with a bright future.

READ REVIEW

WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT

The offbeat coming-of-age story of Elly, an English girl with an overactive imagination, an intense bond with her older brother, a Belgian hare named god and multiple dates with destiny in post-9/11 New York.

British actress Winman's fiction debut, spanning the late 1960s and early 2000s, boasts one of the more endearingly unconventional families in a while. It's an open secret that Elly's father's lesbian sister has long been enamored of Elly's mother—whom her father married largely as a favor to his sibling. Elly's brother Joe, who is five years older, has known he was gay since he was little. The household is completed by a foppish, aging border and a female Shirley Bassey impersonator. And then there is Elly's mysterious friend Jenny Penny, whom she rescues from neglect at the hands of Jenny's loose-living single mother but can't rescue from a murder conviction later in life. As often as life affirms itself in the book, dark clouds hover: Elly's mother's parents were killed in a freak accident, Elly's father narrowly escapes a bomb blast on a tube train, there are sexual abuses and cancers from which to recover—and, in the second half, there is the horrific bombing of the twin towers. True to the title of a newspaper column Elly now writes about her personal history, Joe and the rediscovered love of his life Charlie both become lost and then found again following the blasts. Though the first half of the book is fresher and more striking then the vaguely familiar New York part (the scene in which Elly auditions for a school pageant in dark glasses, "a cross between Roy Orbison and the dwarf in the film Don't Look Now,” is priceless), Winman mostly lives up to the advance word on the novel. Her quirky voice maintains its energy; even at her most precocious, Elly never wears out her welcome.

A freshly rendered tale of growing up and living in the world by a late-starting author with a bright future.

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60819-534-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more