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Gabriel's Gift


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Gabriel's Gift by Hanif Kureishi is a delightful novel about 'how single-minded creativity might embrace and even be buoyed by the heartbreaking muddle of everyday life.' (the Observer), from the author of The Buddha of Suburbia and The Black Album.

About the Author

Hanif Kureishi was born and brought up in Kent. He read philosophy at King's College, London. He is the author of numerous novels, short story collections, screenplays and plays. In 1984 he wrote My Beautiful Laundrette, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. His second film, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, was followed by London Kills Me, which he also directed. The Buddha of Suburbia won the Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel in 1990 and was made into a four-part drama series by the BBC. His second novel, The Black Album, was published in 1995 and his first collection of short stories, Love in a Blue Time, was published in 1997. My Son the Fanatic, a story from that collection was adapted for film and released in 1998. Intimacy, his third novel, was published in 1998, and was adapted for film in 2001.


In 2001, Kureishi set teacups rattling in England with Intimacy, a sexually explicit novella about an extramarital affair, with possible real-life parallels. Here he concocts an appealing, deceptively breezy coming-of-age story recalling his screenplays (My Beautiful Laundrette; Sammy and Rosie Get Laid) in its tender evocation of London-area grunge. Since Mum banished Dad three months ago, 15-year-old Gabriel Bunch has been on the equivalent of house arrest. Nannied to death by hairy Hannah, a refugee from the Communist town of "Bronchitis," Gabriel copes by smoking pot, talking to his dead twin brother, Archie, and drawing objects that disturbingly come to life. Then his dad, Rex, a '60s-era guitarist now wallowing in a squalid bedsit, gets a call from Lester Jones, a David Bowie-like rock god who still packs 'em in. Rex brings Gabriel to meet Lester, who recognizes Gabriel's artistic gifts and gives him a painting that soon becomes central to a virtual custody battle between Mum and Dad and Gabriel himself. The plot is a familiar domestic triangle, as the parents vie for Gabriel's allegiance. But all three Bunches are rich characters capable of sudden growth spurts and surrounded by a crowd of psychedelically colorful friends and associates. Kureishi's loose, loopy style will keep readers off-balance ("She was a person around whom different odors seemed to congregate, like bums on a street corner"). Yet behind the apparent artlessness, this is a shrewd, warmly imagined portrayal of the healing powers of art. (Oct.) Forecast: Kureishi's rep and the psychedelic jacket should help sell this title, especially in big city stores. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

British author, playwright, and screenwriter (My Beautiful Laundrette), Kureishi is in the spotlight nowadays, most notably for his 2001 novel Intimacy (LJ 12/98), recently made into a motion picture and notorious for a sexually explicit scene with name actors. However, this excellent novel, reissued here in paperback with Midnight All Day, a collection of original short stories, occupies itself less with sex than with the basic issue of intimacy and the struggles of Jay, on the verge of leaving his wife and two children for an uncertain relationship with a much younger woman. The author strikes the right chord, with Jay (who some say is a stand-in for Kureishi) addressing the reader directly, weighing his options, and recounting his life with Susan and with his lover, Nina. Jay is no doubt self-obsessed, and Kureishi stacks the deck in his favor by showing mostly the shrewish side of Susan, but this is a fascinating and intelligent examination of one man's perception of a burnt-out marriage and of what he needs instead. The collected stories sketch out similar portraits of love and intimacy. In "Strangers When We Meet," for instance, the final chapter of an affair comes to a close when a husband happens on what was intended to be a rendezvous; in the excellent "Girl," the histories of a young woman and her older lover uneasily mesh together through a first visit to her mother. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Matthew Craft"The Hartford Courant"Smart, sensitive, and brisk..."Gabriel's Gift" does what many of us are unable to do: It plumbs through the small deceits and cheap antagonisms of everyday family life and emerges open-eyed and smiling.

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