Oddly unpleasant and yet somehow riveting.

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LOVE LIFE

A strange and somewhat strained tale of an extramarital affair: poet Shalev’s first fiction and a huge success in her native

Israel. Narrator Ya'arah is a graduate student living in Jerusalem with her pleasant if unexciting husband when she meets Aryeh, her father's best friend, a jaded but attractively bearish man who immediately both repels and attracts her. With surprising rapidity (surprising even to her), she falls into an on-and-off affair with him, depicted in increasingly explicit terms, gradually undermining not only her marriage but her already shaky academic career as well. Things come to a messy peak when his wife dies and her husband plans to take her on a long-deferred honeymoon, at which point she goes to the older man to comfort him, knowing that this can only precipitate an irreparable breach in her marriage. Shalev tells this somewhat banal story in a torrential first-person stream-of-consciousness narration. The tone—a tumbling welter of clauses strung together into lengthy run-on sentences—reflects the impulsive, willful mind of the narrator, but the effect on the reader quickly becomes numbing. And the pace of the story is often blunted by lengthy, uninspired philosophical discussions. On the other hand, its complex architecture, built on a series of slowly disclosed revelations of the past connections between her parents and her lover, provides a certain fascinating force. Regrettably, much of that force is vitiated by the narrative voice, which is petulant, self-involved, self-dramatizing, and emotionally disproportionate to many of the quotidian events driving the plot. Still, Bilu's translation is quite good, which may work to the book's advantage.

Oddly unpleasant and yet somehow riveting.

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8021-1655-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2000

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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