ALL SHOOK UP

POEMS 1997-2000

Mitchell, now in his late 60s, is something of a father figure and cult idol among the poetic Left in England. As he notes in his acknowledgments, his recent work has centered on theater writing for children, and that pastime has left its mark on his writing—if this collection is any evidence. There has always been a tendency in Mitchell’s verse towards the simplistic, the propagandistic, and the disposable, but those vices have usually been leavened by a genuine wit and warmth. Here, the personal warmth is undiminished, but most of the poems are not much better than greeting-card rhymes. Indeed, some of the occasional poetry here, marking such events as friends’ birthdays and the arrival of new babies, might well have come straight off the Hallmark shelf. Three notable exceptions serve as a reminder of what Mitchell is capable of. “I’m on the Train” is a snatch of overheard cell-phone blather, acutely observed and devastatingly funny. Mitchell’s parody of Larkin’s “This Be the Verse” (inspired by some poor soul who thought that the original said that Mum and Dad “tuck you up”) is a witty rejoinder to Larkin’s brutal misanthropy. And “Memo to an Architect,” the longest poem in the collection, is an expansive vision of the idyllic home, nestled in a continuum of several decades of the poet’s life. As for the rest, the subtitle accompanying the title poem says it all: “Adrian Mitchell has left the building.”

A pity.

Pub Date: April 30, 2001

ISBN: 1-85224-513-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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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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