The author combines an impressive knowledge of history, sociology and psychology to create an intellectually and emotionally...

ASTOR PLACE VINTAGE

The past meets the present in Lehmann's work of feminist literary fiction.

In 2007, 39-year-old Amanda indulges her interest in history by running a vintage clothing business in New York City. She is contacted by Jane Kelly, who, at 98, is getting rid of a lifetime’s accumulation of stuff, selling whatever she can for whatever she can get. Amanda takes an old trunk full of clothing on consignment and, while going through the items, finds a journal, started in 1907 by a woman named Olive, sewn inside a muff. These two women are separated by a century but have a lot in common. Olive is rebelling against the 19th-century concept of a woman’s “place” in society, and Amanda feels herself caught between two historic eras. Olive’s mother died in childbirth, and she was raised by an upper-class, loving but conservative father. His fortune was lost in the stock market, and when he died, she became poor. The author presents compelling, often shocking historical details about the treatment of working women in the early years of the century. Meanwhile, Amanda, in contemporary Manhattan, is considering extricating herself from an affair with a man she dearly loves. Along the way, she visits a hypnotist. The tape she receives after her session introduces questions that bring her closer to Olive. 

The author combines an impressive knowledge of history, sociology and psychology to create an intellectually and emotionally rewarding story.

Pub Date: June 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8205-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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