THIS IS THE LIFE

A first novel from young Irish writer O'Neill, a barrister in London, whose hero is a sort of legal Lucky Jim at sea in the law. James Jones is one of those dreamy young men, secretly nurturing great ambitions but never quite able to pull them off, who lurks in every profession. An indifferent law student, Jones has been transformed by reading a book by famous international lawyer Michael Donovan. Thereafter, he reads everything Donovan writes and, after graduation, becomes Donovan's ``pupil'' at his chambers. For six months, Jones works closely with his idol, a man obsessed by law and oblivious to everything else—but to Jones's great disappointment, he is turned down by the chambers at the end of his pupilage and has to join a small and undistinguished law firm. While he does unglamorous, nitty-gritty legal work, he embarks on a tepid relationship with Susan, as plain and undistinguished as himself, and tries to forget about the stimulating work he did with Donovan. But to Jones's surprise, Donovan, rumored to have recently suffered a nervous breakdown, suddenly asks Jones to represent him in his divorce—a divorce Donovan does not want. Jones, who at last feels he's getting closer to Donovan and fame, finds the man as elusive and puzzling as before. And given his penchant for getting things wrong, Jones not only fails to understand what is really going on but is nearly fired. His own subsequent breakdown leads him to admit that he's been too much the dreamer: ``No one was going anywhere. No one, not even Donovan, had anywhere to go.'' Witty and perceptive—but too drawn out, too carefully crafted, and too repetitive to really stun. Promise, but without pizazz.

Pub Date: June 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-374-27590-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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