This strange, mesmerizing novel is hard to shake, evoking lucidity, mortality, and weirdness in equally memorable measures.


An academic receives a series of documents from a deceased colleague, leading him down an obsessive path.

Critchley’s surreal and intellectual novel begins with a kind of memento mori: “I was dying. That much was certain. The rest is fiction.” That neatly establishes the mood of what’s to come: a meditation on philosophy and mortality that begins carefully and meticulously and slowly heads into progressively more irrational strata. And yet it’s also a playful nod to the more metafictional aspects of the book: the narrator here appears to be a version of Critchley, but the story being told can best be described as a novel, unlike the rest of its author’s work. The novel begins when Critchley receives a selection of documents compiled by his late colleague Michel Haar; in a glossary at the back of the book, Critchley notes that “much of what is said about him above is true. Some of it isn’t.” And so it goes: real philosophers interweaving, with brief observations on aging, culture, and Critchley’s fondness for the long-running post-punk band The Fall. Into this precise literary structure comes a series of precise intellectual structures: first, a series of memory maps, which take on precognitive abilities: “Their purpose was to plot the major events in a philosopher’s life and then to use those events to explain his demise.” And from there comes the structure that gives the book its title: a memory theater, a concept with which the narrator becomes progressively more obsessed. What begins as an eminently rational work slowly takes on a haunting illogic, a kind of intellectual horror creeping in.

This strange, mesmerizing novel is hard to shake, evoking lucidity, mortality, and weirdness in equally memorable measures.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59051-740-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet