In a charming, comic little novel on the love that literature can inspire, a motley group of Brontâ enthusiasts gather for an academic conference—and end up transforming their chaste devotion into a more physical passion. British novelist and critic Davies, herself a Brontâ scholar, pokes reverent fun at all the fuss ladled on the three dead sisters. Her briskly plotted work, the author's first US publication, follows the exploits of four pilgrims to the shrine of the Brontâ homestead: Eileen James, a 60ish virgin who attends all the conferences to proclaim vehemently the significance of Passion; Timothy, an infirm widower who occasionally sees Emily's ghost; Marianne Pendlebury, the professor who arranged the conference—and has a Brontâ pen-pal in Timothy and a grudge against the always disruptive Eileen; and finally young, hulking Sharon, a waitress invited by Marianne, who mistakenly thinks Sharon has hidden literary interests. The conference, peopled by the usual assortment of theorists (the semicolon enthusiasts, the uterine-feminists, the deconstructionists) does not go well for Marianne. She knows that she's on the verge of being sacked by her university (she's too subdued in lectures), and her three toddlers have unexpectedly shown up—in tow of their self-centered father, who deposits them on her lap. Eileen is disillusioned (she happens upon two deconstructionists having sex on the moors, and the animalism of the act shatters her well-tended ideas about passion), but when she's accidently locked in the Brontâ house at night with Timothy, she discovers an appealing companionship. Bored Sharon also finds love on the moors, in the form of local boy Mark, who's entranced by her learned associations. The ending, which picks up the lives of the pilgrims a year later, offers a sweet homage to the transformative powers of literature, in all its subtle forms. An airy read, light and rewarding; particularly enjoyable to those bewitched by the academic world of letters.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-16844-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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