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VERNON SUBUTEX 3

The inevitable finale to a messy, often absorbing saga about the evolution of the dispossessed.

The long, wild ride of France’s most unlikely lothario reaches its lurid climax.

For this third and concluding chapter in the series about the titular vagabond, it seems fitting that Despentes completes the cycle of grief by finally giving her eccentric ensemble a kind of acceptance and maybe even a little peace. As before, this is a sprawling cast of human pinballs, with dozens of characters careening in and out of each other’s lives, cataloged via a roster recounting each character’s current events. Perpetual sad sack Vernon is returning from exile as a changed man facing a very different Paris than he left: “Paris has become hard. Vernon is immediately aware of the pent-up aggression­­—people are furious, pressed up against each other, ready to come to blows.” In that respect, this entry is very much of its time, visiting its characters’ feverish day-to-day dramas but punctuated by real-life shockwaves, among them the Charlie Hebdo attack, the coordinated terrorist attacks that ended in the Bataclan massacre, and more personal losses like David Bowie. Vernon, meanwhile, has become the somewhat unreliable sage to a group of disciples as well as a popular DJ, dubbed the “shaman of the turntable.” Returning from the relatively safe commune where he and his friends were building a capitalism-free life, Vernon is faced with a dilemma when his old drinking buddy Charles dies, leaving him a fortune but no clue as to how to spend it. The meandering story is characteristically prolonged, but there’s something comforting in visiting each singular arc, be it coke addict Kiko searching for spiritual equilibrium, friends Aïcha and Céleste going underground after avenging the death of Aïcha’s mother, or Laurent Dopalet, the Harvey Weinstein doppelgänger, licking his wounds and plotting revenge. Perhaps it’s because no one here changes much, yet none are immune to the inevitable march of time. Life, in all its chaotic glory, goes on.

The inevitable finale to a messy, often absorbing saga about the evolution of the dispossessed.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-28326-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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