Mindless froth that Austen addicts will love.

AUSTENLAND

Yet another player in the literary parlor game of re-writing Jane Austen.

From the dedication to Colin Firth, Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries, Hale, author of YA novels (River Secrets, 2006, etc.), lets the reader know her tongue is firmly in cheek. Hale’s heroine, Jane Hayes, is a single New York professional with a secret passion for Pride and Prejudice—not the novel, but the more over-the-top romantic screen versions, particularly the one starring Firth. Shortly after her Great-Aunt Carolyn discovers Jane’s obsession, the old lady conveniently dies, having bequeathed to Jane a three-week stay at Pembrook Park, a fantasy version of a Regency England country estate (modern plumbing, but no cell phones allowed). Temporarily re-christened “Miss Jane Erstwhile,” Jane soon finds herself plopped into the center of several Austen novels rolled together. Her fellow guests are the pathetically needy “Miss Charming” and the gentle, genuinely charming “Miss Heartwright.” Knowing that the hosts and male guests are clearly actors does not keep Jane from confusing fact with fantasy. As she resists the falseness of the situation, she falls into a contemporary fling with Martin, an actor playing a gardener on the estate, with whom she watches television and makes out. She also finds herself drawn to “Mr. Nobley,” a Darcy stand-in. But is it the character being played whom she’s attracted to? Or the man playing him? The novel is clever in its depiction of the many ways in which romance can fall away, and Jane is no fool as she attempts to sort out the real from the make-believe. Readers will be as surprised as she is by some of the twists. But ultimately this is a romance novel in which lovers who are meant to be together overcome miscues and misunderstandings before the final clinch.

Mindless froth that Austen addicts will love.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 1-59691-285-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

THE UNSEEN

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more