A masterful work—its emotional range and the poetry of its language evoke Virginia Woolf, and its attention to detail will...

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SEVEN LOVES

Unconventionally structured debut novel about a conventional, but moving, life.

May Nilsson has had seven abiding loves in her long life, and each forms the subject of a chapter in this finely drawn and emotionally rich novel. The seven sections include the usual suspects—husband, son, lover and mother—but also throw in some surprising characters—a coworker from a temporary job May takes after retirement, her nursing-home aide and the police officer indirectly responsible for her son’s death. The chapters are not presented in chronological order; readers meet May after her retirement, and meet her lover before her husband, and her husband only after he has retired and suffered a heart attack. Although May’s mother dies very early in her life, the section devoted to May’s youth is the last, most important section of the novel. Rather than depicting the arc of one woman’s experiences as they shape and refine her personality, the book’s structure argues that each moment in an individual’s life represents an entire world in itself. People, for Trueblood, are powerfully present, perhaps never more so than when they try to come to terms with the past. Each of May’s seven loves elicits a different version of May, foregrounds different passions, intensifies different characteristics and desires. No matter that each chapter covers only a few weeks in her life, and that for the most part, Trueblood only gestures at the everyday routines that hold May’s character together; the whole trajectory of May’s life emerges in its fullness by the end. This is a rare assured and capable debut, filled with breathtaking turns of phrase and pulsing with the rhythm of experience, despair and love.

A masterful work—its emotional range and the poetry of its language evoke Virginia Woolf, and its attention to detail will remind readers of Anita Brookner’s work.

Pub Date: June 21, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-05893-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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