Latest in Birmingham's infatuations with other peoples' lives (Shades of Fortune, 1989, etc.)—here in another of his popular tales of Manhattan mensch on the move, with shaky pasts and glittery presents, their women and their well-kept secrets. This time, the death of a famous retail magnate turns out to have been murder, and it's his daughter who'll save both the endangered business and her own self-esteem as her father's past steams open. Silas Tarkington (nÇ Solomon Tarcher), founder and owner of Tarkington's—a Fifth Avenue emporium for the super-rich/super- chic—is found floating in his Long Island mansion's swimming pool. But Silas, it seems, was in perfect health—and why did second wife Consuela, who found the body, call a doctor friend a half-hour away instead of 911? Meanwhile, Silas's daughter Miranda, always discouraged by her father from a career in the store, accepts with pleasure the invitation of Silas's right-hand man, handsome Tommy Bonham, to be a partner in administering Tarkington's. Silas' son by his first wife, however, is not mentioned in the will, and neither is Moses Minskoff, a gross chewer of dead cigars, telephone glued-to-ear—a combo of Bugsy Siegel and Fibber Fox, given to toss off wonders like ``entre vous'' and ``tempo fugit, as the fella says.'' This Birmingham cartoon, broad as a meat axe, has had a lot to do with the rise of Silas Tarkington. Now, out of the mists of the past, arise: ancient mother Rose and sister Simma, as well as a mysterious lady in a West End Avenue brownstone, her hand out for a monthly payment personally delivered by Silas. While Miranda suffers and wonders about Dad's women in and out of wedlock, a nice journalist begins to help Miranda snoop—successfully. An agreeable enough mystery enlivened by Birmingham's sense of intimacy with the scene. The author's following—carriage-to-subway trade—is a given.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 1993

ISBN: 0-553-08135-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1993

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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