Gripping, though inconsistently, with Greta more compelling than Lili. And, for those so inclined, a hyperdetailed tour of...

THE DANISH GIRL

Ebershoff, executive editor at Random House, tells the story of a man who gets turned into a woman: a leisurely and old-fashioned first novel that will doubtless be riveting to many; others may find it a grandiose canvas for what it actually offers.

Though the talented and energetic Greta Waud was born in 1897 in Pasadena, European ties led her family to Copenhagen, where they stayed until WWI frightened them back to the West Coast. Greta’s new love for her shy Danish painting instructor, Einar Wegener, appeared doomed by this retreat, and, back in California, she married an artist named Teddy Cross—a union happy until Teddy’s death from TB. Single again, Greta returned to Copenhagen to pursue her painting—and to marry the delicate Einar, who remained just as available as he—d been before the war. Years pass, until, one day in 1925, Greta, by now a working portraitist, asks Einar to stand in as model for her absent subject by putting on the woman’s stockings and dress—and awakens Einar’s long-suppressed desire, from earliest boyhood, to be but a woman. As this recognition strengthens, Einar cross-dresses more often, goes out alone—is even courted by a young man. Ever understanding and tolerant, Greta consults a doctor, whose suggestion that Einar be immured scares the couple off to permanent residence in Paris. With the help of Greta’s brother Carlisle and Einar’s boyhood friend Hans Axgil—now an art dealer, representing Greta’s portraits of the wan Lili, which sell like hotcakes—more doctors are consulted, all benighted except for Professor Doctor Bolk, of Dresden, who understands perfectly and agrees to perform the surgery that will be the beginning of profound changes, joys, and sorrows in the lives of all involved.

Gripping, though inconsistently, with Greta more compelling than Lili. And, for those so inclined, a hyperdetailed tour of times long gone.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-88808-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1999

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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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