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Vivienne's Blog

The narrator may be unreliable, but the stories she tells, as well as her own, are infinitely appealing.

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Leaton’s debut psychological thriller takes place in the fractured mind of Vivienne Coroth, who, believing herself a descendant of Faeries, may be plotting revenge against her ex-lover and his new wife.

Thanks to a court order, Vivienne can’t get anywhere near her ex, Callum, or his wife, Mary. So Vivienne starts writing a blog for Callum, hiding a password for website access in the pages of a letter she sends him. As far as Vivienne knows, Callum won’t find the password, but he’ll wish he had: Vivienne is regularly watching Mary and the couple’s twin toddler sons at the mall. She snatches one of the boys, Samuel, and spends days telling him about her Faerie family, beginning in the late 18th century—a history she knows because her ancestors’ memories have been passed on to her. But Vivienne has plans for Samuel, involving a powerful spell that she’ll soon cast. Leaton’s novel has great fun toying with perspective; the entire narrative is the blog, as Vivienne posts letters to and from Callum, as well as correspondence from Callum’s lawyers, who strongly suggest she stop writing her ex. Vivienne firmly believes that she’s a Faerie (she looks human but makes it clear she isn’t one), but Leaton avoids confirming the possibility as fact. This results in numerous bizarre, often humorous sequences in which Vivienne, for instance, converses with Samuel who, at a mere 18 months, speaks in adult-sized sentences: “The stuff about the uncles was hardly a lullaby, was it? Oh, sanitise it for me if you must. Just give me the facts about your eponymous ancestress.” There are likewise hilarious reminders of his age (he still plays with blocks), which tend to offset the seriousness of a child having been kidnapped. Vivienne recounts to Samuel a great deal of her background (mostly Faerie but some of her human family, too) and a few of her dreams; these sufficiently mold the woman’s mindset, but they’re also a bit excessive, coming across as a series of only moderately relevant short stories, each with its own title and separate chapter. Leaton steers clear of a definite resolution, leaving readers to question whether the protagonist is insane or mystical. The story leans in one direction near the end before a crackerjack finish.

The narrator may be unreliable, but the stories she tells, as well as her own, are infinitely appealing.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496012401

Page Count: 384

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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