Faulks remains at the peak of his considerable strength.



            Faulks’s latest may lack the breadth of Birdsong (1996) or Charlotte Gray (1999), his usual deep sensibilities and conjurer’s gift for evoking time and place are what matter.

            The political and psychic scars of WWI remain everywhere in France in the 1930s, even in the drab provincial city of Janvilliers – to which, one rainy night, young Anne Louvet makes her way by train to take up her new post as waitress at the shabby hotel called the Lion d’Or.  From the start, there’s a mystery about Anne (Louvet isn’t even her real name), but there are also the allures of her quick intelligence, ready sense of humor – and her appealingly attractive good looks.  So it is that the crass André Mattlin, architect and roué, sets his sights on her, while Anne’s own wiser and deeper heart goes out to one Charles Hartmann, who – with his barren and unhappy wife Christine – lives in the ancient mansion outside of town that he’s inherited from his father and hopes to repair.  Anne’s interest in Charles is returned, and when Charles tells his wife he’s needed in Paris on business (he’s a lawyer), he in fact takes Anne on a weekend to the comfortably splendid country house of an old friend.  From there on, once love is declared, the tale moves toward an ending that will break the hearts of some, strike fear into others.  When Anne finally tells Charles her extraordinary, pathetic mystery, not  a great deal by way of plot is released, but the novel’s truest assets are brought to vivid life indeed.  The atmosphere of between-the-wars anxiety tips toward a new foreboding, making Charles’s being partly Jewish (the vile, devilish Mattlin uses this against him); various awful memories of WWI; the weakness of France’s governments; and the true horror of Anne’s girlhood secret all blend into a story of quiet and terrible power.

            Faulks remains at the peak of his considerable strength.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-70453-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1999

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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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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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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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