A sophisticated adventure novel, restless to break out, yet comfortably couched in its genre.

AN OUTLINE OF THE REPUBLIC

Second-novelist Deb (The Point of Return, 2003), an author with great craft and potential, ventures into the militant-controlled territories of northeastern India.

Rummaging through the “morgue” of dead stories at the offices of the Calcutta newspaper where he has worked for the past ten years, reporter Amrit Singh fixes on a terrorist group’s chilling photograph of an abducted porn actress and two of her kidnappers. Hoping to emerge from “the stupor of the past seven years” at his paper and start a new life, Singh parlays the photo into an assignment from a European magazine to find the woman and learn what has become of her. With the long-distance help of Robiul, Singh’s mentor and an expert in the far-flung region of India where these terrorists operate, he works his way from cheap hotel to bus station to guard outpost and beyond, gradually submerging himself in a miasma of broken-down government and ramped-up insurgencies. The milieu, from beginning to end, has the disorder of a developing region plagued by Islamic fundamentalist violence and gang militarism, where one more disappearance is not necessarily big news. The major players are organizations with acronyms like MORLS and SLORC, but it’s the intimacy with the minor players—the aunt of the woman in the photograph, the tea salesman in the next hotel room—that gives this story its power. Deb’s style is straight-up occidental, forgoing the exotic aura of Arundhati Roy’s or Salman Rushdie’s tales. Of a small-time filmmaker in the region Singh says, “Even the barking of the dogs sounded foreign to him as he stumbled along in the cold, still half-asleep from the bus ride, so that the pine trees bleached white by the moonlight seemed like some blurred landscape from his disturbed dreams.”

A sophisticated adventure novel, restless to break out, yet comfortably couched in its genre.

Pub Date: April 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-050155-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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

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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

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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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