A chronicle of obsession, self-indulgence, and, in a curious way, moral growth, expertly poised between realistic narrative and allegorical fable, from the author of such intriguing, if sometimes unduly gossamer, fictions as Edwin Mullhouse (1972) and In the Penny Arcade (1986). The eponymous Martin, a quiet, diligent youth who learns the rudiments of business practices as a clerk in his father's Manhattan cigar store in the 1890s, rises gradually to wealth and fame as bellhop and eventually second-in-command at a well-known New York hotel, then proprietor of his own cigar store, afterward a thriving lunchroom, and, before his 30th birthday, of the ultramodern Dressler Hotel and its even more successful successors, most notably the Grand Cosmo, ``a leap beyond the hotel,'' that incorporates elements of a traveling Chautauqua, a theme park, and even a hint of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. Millhauser gives equal weight—as never before in his fiction—to both the dreamlike nature of Martin's ambitions and progress, and the quotidian mechanics of achieving that success: The novel is built up from an amazing density of specific period detail that never for a moment seems oppressive or ostentatious. Millhauser also develops with great skill the relationships through which Martin realizes his own nature: those with business associates and mentors, and especially with ``the Vernon women,'' a mother and two adult daughters with whom he establishes an unconventional friendship, leading him to a profitable partnership and a disillusioning marriage. This strange story ends with Martin on the verge of ruin, having realized that ``he had dreamed the wrong dream, the dream that others didn't wish to enter,'' yet in no sense defeated, still enchanted, empowered- -and limited—by his dream. A fascinating and provocative portrayal of turn-of-the-century America tht hums with energy and wit. It might be another of Dreiser's densely packed tales of financiers and titans, written at characteristic white heat, but by an immeasurably more graceful stylist.

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-517-70319-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet