An unassuming memory-based tale, with a central character that’s a near-perfect model of womanhood.

THE MANY SHADES OF LIGHT

A septuagenarian recalls her younger years in Avni’s debut novel.

After being inspired by a Robert Goddard quote about memories, “Older Sarah,” attended by a presence named Ariel, reviews her past experiences as “Young Sarah.” The remembrances begin with her attachment to impetuous Guy, who dies in an automobile accident. Events then unfold at a leisurely pace in an unspecified locale (possibly Italy, as a trattoria and a villa are mentioned). Ethan Saddot, an older houseguest, greatly influences the young Sarah, providing emotional support after Guy’s death. He and Sarah develop a friendship before sleeping together, and their experiences shape her later approach to lovemaking, although Sarah is hardly promiscuous. She happily weds and later has two sets of twins, while also serving as an integral part of her husband Michael’s profitable electronics firm. Exquisitely attired and universally admired, she exudes beauty, refinement, intelligence, femininity, humility and principle; she’s especially sensitive to gender issues and equality between the sexes. To Ethan, she is “natural and guileless,” with barely a misstep during her lifetime, although at one point she misjudges a former acquaintance. In later years, she remains attractive, desirable and genuinely surprised at receiving male attentions. Avni gives her character a circular perspective: Old Sarah evaluates the story of Young Sarah, but casts herself and her past experiences in a positive light; although touched by tragedy, she’s virtually devoid of regret. Overall, the novel is polished, but isn’t a page-turner, as few surprises occur in this clear-cut chronicle of Sarah’s loves. It does offer a refreshingly unhurried view of sex, however, in which “[m]oral compatibility” matters; it stresses that people should trust each other before leaping into bed. Ariel’s role in the story, though, will likely be as unclear to readers as it is to Older Sarah: “I can never determine in my mind whether it [Ariel] was a dream, a figment of my imagination, or something related to my age and its need for rejuvenation and sexual excitement.”

An unassuming memory-based tale, with a central character that’s a near-perfect model of womanhood.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1482826418

Page Count: 230

Publisher: PartridgeSingapore

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 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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