Middleton’s fiction doesn’t wave flags or strike sparks. It stares you in the face and tells the plain truth, and it knows...

MOTHER’S BOY

Three variously embattled marriages and their complex interconnections are scrupulously analyzed in the veteran author’s new novel—his 43rd, in a half-century’s work including the 1974 Booker Prize–winning Holiday.

Middleton is a domestic realist whose quiet narratives, set mostly in the English Midlands, focus on people of the professional classes whose marital and family relationships both circumscribe and define their often intriguingly flawed natures. This novel begins with 30ish accountant John Riley’s visit to the nursing home where his father William languishes in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Their halting communication initiates a succession of conversations, accomplished in meetings and telephone calls, through which we gradually comprehend their own and their loved ones’ straitened circumstances. John’s mother Ella, a primary-school headmistress, cannot overcome her anger over William’s effective retreat from her—especially after he overcomes his dementia (“heroically”) and begins romancing a fellow patient. Ella’s chic younger sister Irene and her literally distant husband Eric—a busy foreign correspondent—offer tart commentary, moral support and a dash of sexual complication to John’s initially half-hearted, eventually sincere efforts to reconcile with his estranged wife Helen, an emotionally fragile beauty, albeit a successful solicitor. It sounds like soap opera, but isn’t—because Middleton writes incisive, revealing dialogue and radiates empathy for his sometimes annoyingly poky characters. He also suggests—through allusions to Shakespeare—that fools though these middle-class mortals may be, they’re as complicated, ornery and interesting as the people next door. Though this industrious, unpretentious artist is often compared to E.M. Forster and C.P. Snow, he’s more closely akin to early 20th-century realist Arnold Bennett.

Middleton’s fiction doesn’t wave flags or strike sparks. It stares you in the face and tells the plain truth, and it knows more things about us than we might have believed possible.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2007

ISBN: 0-09-179717-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hutchinson/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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