A juvenile novel mired in old tropes.

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THE TRAIN TO PARIS

Two unlikable lost souls have brief encounters in France in this debut novel.

Twenty-year-old Lawrence, stranded in a European nowheresville after a tepid vacation with his girlfriend in Madrid, finds himself taken under the wing of a well-dressed, decisive woman named Élodie. Lawrence is an art history student from New Zealand set to study at the Sorbonne, Élodie is a mystery—a brasher, older Holly Golightly. Both are trying to get back to Paris, but the rail system has mostly shut down, so Élodie hails a cab and takes them to Biarritz. There, with her husband’s credit card, she pays for a new set of clothes for Lawrence, a suite at the Palais, champagne and caviar. She and Lawrence snark at each other through dinner, she ignores him to flirt with an unappealing old friend, she throws herself into the hotel pool, forcing Lawrence to come to her rescue, and, inevitably, beds him. Lawrence’s feelings about Élodie don’t seem to change from the first: He disdains and is obsessed with her. When she calls him after many months and invites him to meet her in Paris, he fantasizes about standing her up in a way that borders on creepy. He goes to see her anyway, of course, and their second day together goes much like the first. There is a hint that they are softening toward each other, but to what end? Any change in either character—or their circumstances—is negligible. Though clearly trying to ape Paris’ famous misogynist heroes, Hampson offers none of the marrow-sucking vigor of Hemingway or the dizzying self-destructiveness of Miller. He also lacks the ability of his more successful navel-gazing contemporaries to add compelling emotional texture to youthful ennui.

A juvenile novel mired in old tropes.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-922147-79-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Text

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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