An insouciantly witty celebration of the mingled folly and grandeur of physical love and its discontents. The best so far...

THE LAST NIGHT I SPENT WITH YOU

The Cuban-born author's fifth novel (and third in English translation, following In the Palm of Darkness, 19xx, and The Messenger, 19xx) depicts in profuse erotic detail the temptations to which a middle-aged married couple separately succumb during a Caribbean vacation voyage.

Fernando, a seemingly stodgy accountant, and his lively (slightly older) wife Celia journey around the islands, en route to Martinique, in the wake of their only daughter's marriage and their own aroused awareness of time passing—and mortality. He dallies with a sultry fellow passenger, Julieta (amusingly enough, she says she's a harpist), while indulging rather less celestial memories of his many happy couplings with Celia, as well as the occasional past infidelity. Celia, meanwhile, remembers her own satisfying sexual career (Fernando doesn't know she has carried on an extended affair with her importunate lover Agustin) and enjoys a fling with a remarkably endowed black boatman. Meanwhile, the seductive rhythms of the bolero are continually heard in the novel's background, and further counterpoint is provided by a series of letters addressed to an unidentified `Angela` by her lover `Abel.` The mystery of their correspondence, and its connection to the relationship of Fernando and Celia, is deftly revealed in the complex denouement—which also explains the enigmatic Julieta's true nature. Montero also deepens the story’s agreeably bizarre texture with frequently hilarious comparisons of the varieties of human sexual response to the mating rituals of numerous other lovestruck creatures (informing us, for example, that `the curved claws of . . . male owls are out of control during coitus, they leave the soft backs of their mates permanently bent`).

An insouciantly witty celebration of the mingled folly and grandeur of physical love and its discontents. The best so far from one of Latin America's most impressive recent exports.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-095290-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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