Melodrama that borders on over-ripeness but that can be quite delicious.



British journalist Wallace’s first novel concerns a young Victorian-era woman placed in a private mental asylum by her husband for questionable reasons.

Twenty-four year old Anna and priggish Reverend Vincent Palmer have been entered in a mutual marriage of convenience for only seven months when he forcibly installs her at Lake House, a run-down private mental hospital outside London. Anna has provoked her husband by leaving him for five days to tend shipwrecked sailors without telling him beforehand. Does he genuinely think she suffers from hysteria as the asylum’s grossly inattentive doctor agrees, or is he simply punishing her for a lack of submission? In either case, while Anna’s journey was impulsive and tied to haunting visions she can’t escape, she clearly does not deserve to be at Lake House, which offers little in the way of real help for its inmates. Owned by Querios Abse, who lives on-site with his unhappy but oddly sympathetic family, Lake House warehouses women whose families don’t know what else to do with them; Anna soon befriends erudite Talitha Batt, whose “insanity” had to do with falling in love with a non-Christian. Anna also befriends Abse’s teenage daughter Catherine, who has passions and secrets of her own, and she poses for Dr. Lukas St. Clair, a visiting idealistic who believes photographing patients may lead to a breakthrough in treating mental illness by seeing into their minds. With Catherine’s help, Anna escapes Lake House long enough to learn a shocking secret about Vincent, but her sense of responsibility for the adolescent sends her back to Lake House where Abse, in a fit of paternal vengeance—he mistakenly believes Anna has led Catherine astray—comes close to breaking her spirit for good. A decidedly Dickensian flavor infuses the novel, both in style and in emphasis on Victorian social issues, and its lively cast of supporting characters includes caricatures of evil as well as painfully nuanced portrayals of moral complexity.

Melodrama that borders on over-ripeness but that can be quite delicious.

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6082-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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