Next book

OLIGARCHY

Another strange delight from one of the United Kingdom’s most interesting authors.

Eating disorders and suspected murder fuel the latest novel from the author of The Seed Collectors (2015, etc.).

The title of this slim book is as sly and slippery as the narrative itself. Our protagonist, Natasha, is whisked from penury in Russia to a British boarding school when her post-communism, new-money father takes an interest in her. She also establishes herself as one of the girls who leads the student body into disordered eating and light debauchery. Natasha’s transformation includes a fairy godmother in the form of Aunt Sonja, a London-based operator who gives Natasha an iPhone with unlimited data, a black American Express card, and world-weary advice about food and men. But Natasha keeps much of her own tale to herself even as she learns the folklore of her school. Someone named Princess Augusta appears in portraits hung throughout the classrooms and residences, and her story—or, at least, the story that the students tell each other—is both a cautionary tale and an inspiration for girls striving to be the thinnest. Thomas does a fantastic job of capturing the mental and verbal style of a contemporary teen without being precious or exasperating. She also imbues Tash with a signature feature of all adolescents ever, probably: a desire to grow up faster. While Aunt Sonja is cooing over her perfect complexion, Tash is thinking, “But everyone has it, this skin that says I’m young and I know nothing. Literally everyone she knows apart from Lissa has the same skin—and even Lissa’s would be OK if she used the right toner—and so to compete she needs something else. Why do adults not understand that?” The Amex might allow Tash to buy Balenciaga boots, but what she really wants is adventure. She wants to “go into the woods and fight monsters”—a wish that sort of comes true when people at her school start dropping dead. This is a weird, twisty book, and anyone familiar with Thomas’ oeuvre will expect the kind of dark humor that is only possible from a writer of profound compassion. Strong stuff.

Another strange delight from one of the United Kingdom’s most interesting authors.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64009-306-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Categories:
Next book

THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet...

Four Chicago sisters anchor a sharp, sly family story of feminine guile and guilt.

Newcomer Lombardo brews all seven deadly sins into a fun and brimming tale of an unapologetically bougie couple and their unruly daughters. In the opening scene, Liza Sorenson, daughter No. 3, flirts with a groomsman at her sister’s wedding. “There’s four of you?” he asked. “What’s that like?” Her retort: “It’s a vast hormonal hellscape. A marathon of instability and hair products.” Thus begins a story bristling with a particular kind of female intel. When Wendy, the oldest, sets her sights on a mate, she “made sure she left her mark throughout his house—soy milk in the fridge, box of tampons under the sink, surreptitious spritzes of her Bulgari musk on the sheets.” Turbulent Wendy is the novel’s best character, exuding a delectable bratty-ness. The parents—Marilyn, all pluck and busy optimism, and David, a genial family doctor—strike their offspring as impossibly happy. Lombardo levels this vision by interspersing chapters of the Sorenson parents’ early lean times with chapters about their daughters’ wobbly forays into adulthood. The central story unfurls over a single event-choked year, begun by Wendy, who unlatches a closed adoption and springs on her family the boy her stuffy married sister, Violet, gave away 15 years earlier. (The sisters improbably kept David and Marilyn clueless with a phony study-abroad scheme.) Into this churn, Lombardo adds cancer, infidelity, a heart attack, another unplanned pregnancy, a stillbirth, and an office crush for David. Meanwhile, youngest daughter Grace perpetrates a whopper, and “every day the lie was growing like mold, furring her judgment.” The writing here is silky, if occasionally overwrought. Still, the deft touches—a neighborhood fundraiser for a Little Free Library, a Twilight character as erotic touchstone—delight. The class calibrations are divine even as the utter apolitical whiteness of the Sorenson world becomes hard to fathom.

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet another pleasurable tendril of sisterly malice uncurls.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54425-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

Next book

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

Categories:
Close Quickview