Translated from its original French and published previously in England: a novella-length entertainment chronicling the imagined life of Napoleon after St. Helena. Leaving a look-alike behind him on St. Helena, Napoleon is smuggled away on shipboard, passing for a common cabin-hand. That an ingenious international plot is afoot by which the emperor will secretly reenter Europe counts for nothing when Napoleon's ship lands in Antwerp instead of Bordeaux, with the result that Napoleon entirely misses his underground contact, ``a man with a mustache, wearing a gray top hat, sitting on a barrel, holding a furled umbrella in one hand and a copy of the Financial Herald in the other.'' Alone and unrecognized, and passing as a mere tourist, Napoleon revisits Waterloo, embarks by stagecoach for Paris, is detained at the border for nonpayment of a hotel tab in Brussels, is ``rescued'' by a border guard who recognizes the great man and is still faithful to the Napoleonic cause—and who gives him an address in Paris of other die-hard faithfuls. In that capital city, Napoleon will take up with a poor but good-natured widow, reveal his strategic and tactical brilliance by revivifying her retail melon business—and secretly be shown a lunatic asylum (operated by ``Dr. Quinton'') in which all the inmates believe themselves—but of course—to be Napoleon. An ironically parallel fate awaits the too-late-returned emperor himself: when he reveals to the widow who he really is, she of course politely but resolutely considers him mad; and—after getting caught in a soaking rainstorm—he at last sinks into a final illness, pitied for the quaint madness of believing himself to be Napoleon. Tiny, little, miniature, pleasant enough historical fable with a twist.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-13565-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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

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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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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

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