The heartwarming story of the three women friends is a unifying thread in the novel. They met as children living on Livonia Avenue in Brooklyn, and became inseparable. Kitty, “the brave one”, introduced the other two to Chinese food, and pursued her love of dance into a career at Radio City Music Hall.
The novel is rich with sensual details, from the delicious Chinese, Russian and Canadian foods that are prepared at holiday gatherings and recollected through the story to the experiences that Kang has as she falls in love, faces her past, and travels. Spinster Kang is a warm-hearted, delightful story that will engage readers of all interests.
Sarah Kornfeld’s writing is frequently surprising and audacious, with passages of sustained concentration. She is unafraid to report how people feel when they do not know it themselves; occasionally, she hints at a future with which they cannot possibly be acquainted. This is all excellent stuff, unabashed to ‘digress’ or to break rules that are there to be broken.
Behind the profane – and sometimes mixed in and virtually indistinguishable – is the sacred, glimpsed in little experiential epiphanies, such as the unexpected response of a homeless man to the gift of a dead lover’s clothes: ‘Have a bleshed day, man.’ Sometimes the gift of happiness is hard to accept, as when Julian’s friend Peter looks love in the eye: ‘It feels like a mistake – this can’t be for me, it’s too good.’
As a backdrop, New York is portrayed not as a place to get lost, but to be found. In its ethnic bars and restaurants, he lets loose to enjoy himself and his mates in all their absurd glory, chanting medieval plainsong over heavy metal playing on the sound system. LaHines’ Someday Everything Will Make Sense is a comedy celebrating transformation that happens in its own due course.
Coming in at just over 400 pages, the book moves at a quick pace despite being chock-full of details. The information is included to simply move the story along—Benjamin manages to keep the plot from becoming too heavy or dramatic. Overall, The Girls in the Picture is a fascinating read, recommended for both film and history buffs interested in the early 20thcentury.
The chain of events that follow set off a list of moral and psychological issues for the characters, but readers will likely find themselves questioning what they would do in a similar situation.
The yarn Sandoval spins of their lives, instead, would make an HBO show-runner proud. Death, love, and food are never too far from each other; episodes of powerful yearning, comical justice, and occasional violence replace each other at a cinematic pace.
What Reykjavík does get absolutely right is the Russian regime’s century-long predilection for poisoning its critics, dissidents and traitors. Arkadi Vaksberg’s meticulous history The Poison Laboratory: From Lenin to Putin (Gallimard) details the state’s expertise at home and abroad in silencing its enemies, all the way from Lenin’s order in 1921 to create a poison laboratory.
It is entertaining for anyone familiar with the works it lovingly skewers (note the culinary metaphor) and it is strangely compelling even if, like me, you haven’t read Conrad for a long time. It is quietly witty and also serious. It manages to borrow something of the gravitas of Conrad’s novel and – like all good parody – it makes you want to return to the original for a fresh look.