A tabloid stew of unreliable narration and stabbing satire.

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GOOD GIRL WANTS IT BAD

What if Aileen Wuornos had been extremely attractive?

Bradfield (Animal Planet, 1995, etc.) takes male society’s sick fascination with serial killers and spins into it a whole extra thread of sexual tension and provocation that makes for a queasily entertaining experience. Delilah Riordan—“Lah” to her buddies, “The Black Widow” to the press—is the only 19-year-old nymphomaniac on Death Row in the West Texas Women’s Penitentiary. That means she gets some special treatment, especially from the warden and her social worker, both of whom seem to be carrying a torch for her. Convicted of a string of brutal murders in a number of states, Delilah is now writing her “confessions,” a diary that claims to disclose all that she has actually done, as opposed to the lying tales about her in the media. It’s pretty obvious from the start that Delilah is a less-than-truthful storyteller, which definitely makes for a more amusing narrative: “First off, I have not killed that many people, maybe two, though there have been several accidents involving men I knew.” As befits the output of a psychopathic teenager, her narrative jumps all over the place, flitting among reminiscences of childhood, justifications for why she did what she was convicted for, and tantalizing suggestions of other, as-yet-undiscovered crimes; it all acts as a gigantic tease for the great revelation that seems sure to be unveiled at the close. Delilah’s fanciful musings, in which she also tries to start writing a novel and proclaims many times her love for W. Somerset Maugham, are counterpointed by transcripts of interviews between her and various authority figures, most of them feeling a fatal attraction toward her. Bradfield’s story has an undeniable edge, and his aim is true when aiming at the sexual vortex of media worship, but that’s not enough to make this an entirely successful exercise. At times it seems like an unnecessary throwback to the serial-killer-obsessed 1990s.

A tabloid stew of unreliable narration and stabbing satire.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7867-1338-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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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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