Kureishi is smart about book culture and relationships in a novel that fails to satisfyingly merge both.

THE LAST WORD

A man opts to live with the famous—and famously prickly—author he’s writing a biography about. Whoops.

Kureishi’s seventh novel (Something To Tell You, 2008, etc.) is focused on Harry, a rising young British author who’s been all but strong-armed by his agent to write a biography of Mamoon, an Anglo-Indian writer whose intellectual rages are nearly as famous as tales of his noxious relationships with women. (There’s a furious former mistress and rumors he drove his first wife to an early grave.) The agent has put Harry in an impossible spot, demanding that the book deliver sordid details about Mamoon while giving his second wife, Liana, the right to take a pass at the manuscript. Gamely embedding himself in the writer’s manse in the countryside outside London, Harry is soon tangled in complications: Mamoon isn’t interested in interviews, Liana is steering him away from talking with the ex-mistress, and Harry pursues a fling with one of Mamoon’s housecleaners (never mind he has a girlfriend). Much of the talk in this novel circles around fidelity: “[A]dultery—pleasure plus betrayal—is the only fun left to us,” Mamoon intones. Harry drifts toward his subject’s way of thinking, which Kureishi milks for both humor and pathos. But Kureishi’s interest in the moral messes of our private lives leads to a novel that never quite settles into a groove. Is it a literary satire, as the agent’s Mephistophelean antics suggest? An upstairs-downstairs tale, focused as it is on tensions between the wealthy owners and the help? Or is it an infidelity tale, marked by Harry’s sexual abandon and ultimate reckoning? A bit of all three, though not quite enough of any one. Kureishi aims to smash preconceptions about literary greatness but only lands glancing blows.

Kureishi is smart about book culture and relationships in a novel that fails to satisfyingly merge both.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7920-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Read this for insights about writing, about losing one’s mother, about dealing with a cranky sous-chef and a difficult...

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WRITERS & LOVERS

A Boston-area waitress manages debt, grief, medical troubles, and romantic complications as she finishes her novel.

“There are so many things I can’t think about in order to write in the morning,” Casey explains at the opening of King’s (Euphoria, 2014, etc.) latest. The top three are her mother’s recent death, her crushing student loans, and the married poet she recently had a steaming-hot affair with at a writer’s colony. But having seen all but one of her writer friends give up on the dream, 31-year-old Casey is determined to stick it out. After those morning hours at her desk in her teensy garage apartment, she rides her banana bike to work at a restaurant in Harvard Square—a setting the author evokes in delicious detail, recalling Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, though with a lighter touch. Casey has no sooner resolved to forget the infidel poet than a few more writers show up on her romantic radar. She rejects a guy at a party who reveals he’s only written 11 1/2 pages in three years—“That kind of thing is contagious”—to find herself torn between a widowed novelist with two young sons and a guy with an irresistible broken tooth from the novelist's workshop. Casey was one of the top two golfers in the country when she was 14, and the mystery of why she gave up the sport altogether is entangled with the mystery of her estrangement from her father, the latter theme familiar from King’s earlier work. In fact, with its young protagonist, its love triangle, and its focus on literary ambition, this charmingly written coming-of-age story would be an impressive debut novel. But after the originality and impact of Euphoria, it might feel a bit slight.

Read this for insights about writing, about losing one’s mother, about dealing with a cranky sous-chef and a difficult four-top.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4853-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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