An emotionally affecting and historically edifying tale.

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In this historical novel set in the 19th century, a young woman of uncommon musical talent longs for the freedom that’s typically reserved for men.

A year after her mother died, Emily Alden, a precocious 13-year-old, is sent from her native England to New York City and entrusted to the care of the de Koningh family as her perpetually busy father, Lord Alden, attends to his own affairs. She’s achingly lonely but quickly makes friends with Corey de Koningh, a tenderhearted boy who’s one year her junior. The two bond over a shared passion for music—he’s a nimble-fingered pianist, and she wants to learn the violin but is forbidden to do so by her father, who thinks it unbecoming for a girl. Nevertheless, Robert Haussmann, Corey’s music instructor, takes her under his wing and tutors her. They discover that she’s unusually gifted and could go far, if she was only given the opportunity. Years later, while wasting away at an oppressive finishing school, Emily is reunited with both Corey and Robert—the former is still playing piano and composing music, although his father, Klaas, seems to encourage neither. Stark (Twilight Perspectives, 2016) artfully chronicles the intersecting lives of the three musicians, which are complicated by the attraction that both men harbor for Emily. The author masterfully sets the historical stage—the United States as it devolves into the Civil War—and she addresses the issue of slavery with nuance and rigor. Klaas secretly works for the Underground Railroad, and both Corey and Emily end up joining the cause, as well, in a riveting storyline. Emily is a delightfully complex mix of defiance and prudence, as she learns early in life that “there’s a very narrow line to negotiate between freedom and responsibility for women” in her era. Stark’s prose is reliably lucid and consistently faithful to the setting, although it’s sometimes a touch saccharine: “ ‘Why can’t we let each other alone?’ [Emily] whispered, shuddering. ‘The world might be a better place if it had only artists living in it.’ ”

An emotionally affecting and historically edifying tale. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9975239-3-5

Page Count: 385

Publisher: Momentum Ink Press

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2019

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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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