Despite Goldstein’s clear talent, it is hard to differentiate her authorial voice from her characters’ pretentious,...



Yet another recent Harvard grad makes a splashy literary debut, with this highly refined tale of love among musical geniuses.

Raised by her art-collecting father and artist mother to believe that the Biblical “chosen people” refers to artists, writers and musicians, Natasha Darsky shows extraordinary talent as a violinist at an early age. While studying composition at Harvard, where her brilliance is matched only by her beauty, she begins a romance with the only composition student who outshines her, a French/Algerian named Jean Paul who strives to reach “Sublimated Tonality.” After Natasha reads a letter in which he implies that her composing talent does not match his own, Natasha drops composing and returns to the violin. Quickly becoming an international star, she dumps the clueless Jean Paul, who slips into anonymity despite a small cult-following of music geeks. Known for the sexual energy she brings to her playing, Natasha actually spends a lonely touring life under the thumb of her parents, who manage her career. At 29, she has a brief, bizarre fling with an aging Polish filmmaker, whose eccentric genius reminds her of Jean Paul. She becomes pregnant and eventually raises her daughter, Alex, alone. A piano prodigy beyond Natasha’s wildest dreams and bored by normal childhood, Alex happily tours with her mother. Then in her early teens, Alex begins to assert her emotional independence from Natasha. Having also uncovered her own deep gift for composing, Alex ends up at a conservatory in Indiana where, unbeknownst to Natasha, she studies under Jean Paul. When Alex comes home to Natasha brokenhearted, Natasha jumps to conclusions about Alex’s relationship with Jean Paul. But the misunderstanding clears up in time for Natasha to perform a swan-song concert in which she debuts Alex’s successful creation of Sublimated Tonality.

Despite Goldstein’s clear talent, it is hard to differentiate her authorial voice from her characters’ pretentious, self-congratulatory whining.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2007

ISBN: 0-385-51781-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2006

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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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