An elegant little piece of dark comedy.

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MARGHERITA DOLCE VITA

This is the first of the prolific Italian author’s novels to be published in English—a cause for celebration.

This inventive satire stars 15-year-old Margherita, as charismatic, though far wiser, than British author Sue Townsend’s popular creation Adrian Mole. She lives with her odd family on the outskirts of the city, not quite in the country, rather a place of both meadows and smog. She, with her beloved mongrel Sleepy, wiles away the days writing just the first line to assuredly brilliant novels and visiting Grandpa Socrates in the attic (he is having an affair with a ghost—Margherita can hear them dancing at night). Margherita stands in awe of her young, genius brother Erminio and the older Giacinto, a pimply football hooligan. Mother Emma is addicted to TV soaps and imaginary smoking, while father Fausto is a professional retiree who collects (and sometimes fixes) junk. A contented bunch all until Margherita’s happily imperfect idyll is altered when a black-glass cube house is built and the new neighbors move in. The Del Bene family, including a ferocious dog (even Sleepy has a rival) undergoing Pavlovian attack -training, is marked by frivolity and foolishness. In a matter of days, Margherita’s family is strikingly transformed by the Del Benes—they become a shinier, greedier, slightly drugged version (this would be Mama suffering the ill effects of cellulite cream) of their former selves, and worse yet, Papa is now partners with Frido Del Bene in the always-suspicious business of import-export. Margherita is not fooled by the perfection of their plastic grass and purified air. Though a little fat and with a bad heart, she knows it’s up to her to save her family, and all those others the Del Benes are attempting to eliminate—gypsies, immigrants, potential communists, the mentally ill and anyone else wary of the black-boot march of an insipid conformity.

An elegant little piece of dark comedy.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-933372-20-6

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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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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