The Great Wide Open is Kennedy’s 13th novel. I’ve read half a dozen or more, starting with his second, The Big Picture (1997), which set the tone of the books that have followed: long, languorous, immersive tales about rich, intelligent people, often women, who find themselves in unexpected circumstances and who somehow muddle through. Thoughtful, troubling, slightly sexy: in France, where Kennedy has lived for many years, his work is revered and he is a Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. The books read like super plush versions of Simenon’s romans durs (“tough” novels) – romans doux, perhaps.
What happens is handled with surprising sensitivity, too, particularly considering Mr. Kennedy’s punchy prose and his brutal, edge-of-the-seat plot. When you finish it, you reflect that while a picture may be worth a thousand words, the author has taken the whole subject of pictures and made them worth an entire transfixing novel (THE BIG PICTURE).
What a difference a day makes, goes the old song. Well Kennedy has taken that tune and had it played by a quintet. The possibility of escape and rejuvenation is the refrain of this novel, and it is a theme for which Kennedy has a particular fascination. He possesses a Hitchcockian approach to this narrative hub; tension and twists are administered in equal measure in order to retain readers’ emotional attachment to otherwise domestic scenarios. The ordinary becomes, through his careful plotting, extraordinary. Kennedy’s trick is to pull all the strings of thriller writing in the romance genre. (FIVE DAYS)
Kennedy is astonishing at communicating his characters’ emotional turmoil, the complexity of their situation, and the coldness of the Cold War, and he tosses tough ethical questions our way as he ponders that ‘moment’ that could change everything - and the very nature of love. Highly recommended. (THE MOMENT)
Conjuring up the fabric of a life - the details of his characters’ jobs, the contents of their fridges and local property prices - is what Kennedy does best. Here his in-depth knowledge of everything from the English legal culture (with its West End divorce lawyers and jumped-up welfare officers) to the inner workings of the breast pump lend the novel a satisfyingly authentic edge. Kennedy’s depiction of family court procedure is spot-on. Neither “literary” nor junky, this moral tale of Anglo-American misalliance will hold up a mirror to someone’s life: with any luck not to yours (A SPECIAL REALATIONSHIP).
Kennedy cannot help but write grippingly, and he weaves threads of love and betrayal into a thrillingly masterful ending. (THE BLUE HOUR)
No stranger to a story with dark undercurrents, the American novelist’s entire fictional collection has covered a wide range of subjects including financial struggles, mental health and turbulent relationships. Often with his books, you start off thinking the story is going to go in a particular way but then it surprises you and ends up being in a completely different place.Across his entire bibliography, Kennedy certainly does not stick to one genre, nor does he let a genre determine the avenues that any particular book can explore (THE BLUE HOUR).
I love reading this book. It makes me wonder about where the author got his inspiration from. It reminds me of the ugly side of globalization i.e small struggling commercial media companies being usurped/sold off/bought over by large international conglomerate that has no hearts at all for struggling people who work days and nights trying to close deals for the company.It opens my eyes to people who work in the culture of competitiveness, people who work outside their comfort zones. It reminds me of a city made of cold grey skyscrappers, all indifferent and cold to outsiders, to losers and non-performers. It makes me stand in awe of those who attempt to join the corporate world and manage to survive and succeed like Ned in this story and he did it all with his good old navvy compassionate steel toughness with a bit of ruthlessness. (THE JOB)
The revelation in the middle of Douglas Kennedy’s 10th novel, ‘The Moment’, is the kind of gut-punch that subverts everything its naïve young narrator has found out so far—without destabilizing the rich, dark novel in progress. West and East Berlin provide the subtly creepy setting for ‘The Moment’s’ romance with a sudden twist. ‘The Moment’ upends its narrative table and forces itself to start again with the risk, luckily unrealized, of losing Thomas within the new development. Rather than constraining the view of Berlin to the young protagonist’s written account, Kennedy lets it spill over into the vividness of re-remembrance. (THE MOMENT)
Kennedy succeeds in showing that what to the traveller at first seems new and revitalisingiy unfamiliar can quickly become dull and unremarkable and loathsome. This tension between literary endeavour and easy journalese is characteristic of Kennedy’s chaotically flamboyant style, which lurches between feeble predictability and fabulous complexity (THE DEAD HEART).
As always with Douglas Kennedy, what follows is a gripping emotional rollercoaster, pressing so many buttons it’s likely to have readers examining their own what-might-have-beens. The story’s resolution is always in doubt but it’s no spoiler to reveal that the overall message is a positive one: it’s never too late to change your life and a different future is there for the taking, it’s just that some of us are too trapped and timid to reach for it (FIVE DAYS).
Readers are bound to fall under the sway of this richly romantic novel set against the melancholy backdrop of a divided city (THE MOMENT).
This novel is being sold as a page turner and Kennedy does undoubtedly maintain the pace throughout; the plot is gripping and the location and huge cast of colourful support characters so well described that this is a minor point. In the end, Robin’s quest becomes more than a search for her husband. It is a search for love, and an exploration of whether it is possible to escape one’s past (THE BLUE HOUR).