Collins, author of The Rationalist (1994), a Booker contender, shows himself once again to be a daring, unconventional, accomplished writer, with a quirky story of the life and times of a London public toilet. Ez Murphy, far from his Jamaican home, is glad to have any job in the white man's world, even if it's cleaning urinals and stalls. He takes his new job seriously, learning the ropes from his supervisor Reynolds and co-worker Jason, who, like him, have emigrated from Jamaica, but before long he discovers that not all the business in the stalls is what it should be. Ez's place of employment is also a popular spot for ``cottaging,'' the euphemistic term for gay sex used by the white lady from the local Council, which runs the toilet, when she drops in to inform Reynolds and his crew that their cleaning duties now extend to the moral as well as the physical sphere. They oblige by installing a fake surveillance camera—and in a matter of weeks the toilet's turnstile receipts drop by half. Back comes the lady, to inform them that with the decline in income one of them now must be let go, a cold act of white hypocrisy in the face of a job too well done. This prompts Rastaman Jason, already stung by having found a black man servicing a white in the course of their clean-up, to quit and go back to Jamaica. Ez sticks it out with Reynolds, and when the Councilwoman returns yet again with the news that the toilet is to be closed, the two join meager resources to rent the place as their own business, keeping it open and returning it to prosperity by making a few eminently practical, and highly tolerant, decisions. A deceptively simple tale with an unorthodox setting and near- zero commercial potential, Collins's novel covers considerable social ground in a brief span—and is eminently successful.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-7145-3028-X

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Marion Boyars

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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