Joseph Conrad's Kurtz as a nightmare headshrinker? The analogy pays off if you stay with this Canadian thriller, but first you have to make it through an obstacle course of intolerably digressive subplots. Schizophrenic spiritualist Lilah Kemp, reading Heart of Darkness at the Metropolitan Toronto Library, sees Kurtz depart from page 92 and walk out; soon he's ensconced as the monstrous head of the Parkin Psychiatric Institute. As Lilah waits in anguish for a Marlow to emerge and do battle with him, Dr. Austin Purvis, a Parkin psychiatrist, wonders what's become of a mysterious patient who changed his name from Adam Smith to Smith Jones to X before disappearing. Meanwhile, Purvis' colleague Dr. Eleanor Farjeon struggles to make sense of a blight that's left eight young patients terror-stricken and mute; another patient, Warren Ellis, becomes the center of a plot to manipulate a research grant from the Beaumorris Corporation; photographer John Dai Bowen's Club of Men continues to recruit boys willing to submit to the members' gaze and Bowen's lens; and mystery man James Gatz moves into a neighborhood that is now home to a Boston psychiatrist named, yes, Dr. Charles Marlow. Death squads of exterminators battle starlings spreading the sinister plague of sturnusemia, and Amy Wylie, a poet obsessively opposed to the exterminations, is committed to Parkin. Kurtz turns out to have a hand in every one of these intrigues, but you may weary of a cast as large (but not as compelling) as any in a George Eliot novel before you find out how. Findley (The Telling of Lies, 1988, etc.) presents a punishingly ambitious portrait of the psychiatrist as contemporary antichrist, but neither Kurtz nor Marlow finally comes to life in his resurrection. You'll finish this recklessly overscaled novel, if you finish at all, with a profound sense of relief.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-517-59827-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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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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