An engrossing tale of love and betrayal based on the historically arguable proposition that the British knew that German submarines were likely to sink the S.S. Lusitania in 1915 and that- -most especially in the person of Winston Churchill—they in fact wanted the attack to occur so that US would be drawn into the Great War. Kennedy (The Himmler Equation, 1989, etc.) tells the story of British naval officer William Day, sidetracked to a base on the coast of Ireland after he has had the temerity to become romantically involved with the aristocratic Jennifer Beecham. During this time, the British were using the ``rules of encounter,'' the gentlemen's agreement about how naval battles were to be fought, to frustrate the efforts of the powerful German submarine fleet. The rules required U-boats to surface and determine that a vessel was actually involved in the war effort and to allow its passengers and crew to abandon ship before sinking it. Britain, meanwhile, illegally armed supply vessels and attacked German subs while denying the policy to the rest of the world. Here, Day, whose life is complicated by the natural alliance of the Irish populace with the Germans, is unaware that his superiors are using his base to allow the enemy to intercept certain shipping information so that they will attack ``neutral'' ships (a program deemed so vital that His Majesty's government assigns a merciless intelligence officer to eliminate Day if he discovers the truth). His only solace lies in the arms of his civilian aide, Shiela McDevitt. It is, of course, dramatically inevitable that the lovely Jennifer sail on the Lusitania on its fatal final voyage, providing the appropriate cliffhanger as things progress to their inexorable and bittersweet end. Kennedy knows how to tell a story, and in Commander Day he has created a courageous patriot who becomes keenly aware that the evils of war manifest themselves on both sides of the battle. A thought-provoking and enjoyable thriller.

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-312-06182-X

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1992

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

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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

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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