My Four Women and Elvis


Bartlett’s debut novel centers on Bill, a 49-year-old British man, and the women in his life.

From the start, Bill shows himself to be completely devoted to the women of his family. He endures his mom’s questions when she must confirm his identity before opening the door for him; he reminisces about his dead sister; and he contemplates his love for his wife, Sandra, and his daughter, Laura. He speaks of his impending status as a middle-aged man, saying that he feels caught between the needs of his children and his mother—“[b]oth demand attention, and you’re ham-sandwiched in the middle. And personally, I feel like squashed ham between two slices of Mighty Bran.” The majority of the book dwells on these ruminations. “I realise I’ve finally reached that golden age when eighty-year-old women find me irresistible,” he says. “It’s a twilight age.” His thoughts on retirement, taking care of his quirky mother and his daughter’s first experiences with love are driving forces of the narrative as he guides readers through his largely pleasant existence and enjoyable family dynamics. With wife, daughter and cat, there are plenty of crass but sweet interactions; it’s a functioning, funny family, and it’s refreshing to spend time with them. Bartlett’s prose is clear, and Bill’s light, witty voice as narrator is enjoyable throughout, particularly in his lists of things he wished he had accomplished or the nine commandments he’s discovered so far. Both Bill and the author are first and foremost jokesters: The prologue, for instance, may leave readers expecting an appearance by the actual king of rock ’n’ roll, as referenced in the title, though they’ll have a good chuckle when Elvis’ true identity is revealed. But as Bill approaches his 50th birthday, Bartlett also follows him into darker, more troubling realities. There are painful memories of his sister, Kate, his father’s passing and an accident, as well as a surprising announcement from his wife that brings these issues into sharper focus. Fortunately, through it all, Bill remains a delight to be around.

A readable slice-of-life novel that turns the days of an ordinary man into endearing, funny episodes and observations.

Pub Date: June 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495449727

Page Count: 246

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?