Artful and troubling. Still, Appelfeld has written many better books than this one.

ALL WHOM I HAVE LOVED

The shadows of World War II and the Holocaust gather slowly and menacingly throughout this previously untranslated 1999 novel from the internationally celebrated Israeli author (The Iron Tracks, 1998, etc.).

Ingenuous narrator Paul Rosenfeld is a six-year-old boy living in the Ukraine in the 1930s, sometimes with his mother, Henia (a schoolteacher), sometimes with his father, Arthur, a gifted painter from whom Henia is divorced. Concentrated in the spare declarative sentences that are the author’s trademark, the novel deftly renders Paul’s growing awareness of both his mother’s need for more love than he can give her (provided now by the new husband, whom Paul bitterly resents) and the anger intensifying in his father, who is forced to abandon painting and teach high-school art, and is simultaneously appalled and energized by evidence of growing anti-Semitic prejudice. Unfortunately, the story is heavily weighted with foreshadowings that come in the form of Paul’s perceptions and disturbing dreams. The sounds of livestock being slaughtered, for example, produce a vision of “blood flowing in the sky and pouring into the horizon.” They are affecting moments, but they reveal too nakedly the author’s heavy hand. Appelfeld succeeds, however, in charting Arthur’s increasing despair, as an exhibition offers the chance to create once again—until the climate of repression awakens the violence that will consume him, just as the perilous temper of the times has claimed Henia, leaving Paul to face the future they have all feared: alone.

Artful and troubling. Still, Appelfeld has written many better books than this one.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2007

ISBN: 0-8052-4177-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

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IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

This new Baldwin novel is told by a 19-year-old black girl named Tish in a New York City ghetto about how she fell in love with a young black man, Fonny. He got framed on a rape charge and she got pregnant before they could marry and move into their loft; but Tish and her family Finance a trip to Puerto Rico to track down the rape victim and rescue Fonny, a sculptor with slanted eyes and treasured independence. The book is anomalous for the 1970's with its Raisin in the Sun wholesomeness. It is sometimes saccharine, but it possesses a genuinely sweet and free spirit too. Along with the reflex sprinkles of hate-whitey, there are powerful showdowns between the two black families, and a Frieze of people who — unlike Fonny's father — gave up and "congregated on the garbage heaps of their lives." The style wobbles as Tish mixes street talk with lyricism and polemic and a bogus kind of Young Adult hesitancy. Baldwin slips past the conflict between fighting the garbage heap and settling into a long-gone private chianti-chisel-and-garret idyll, as do Fonny and Tish and the baby. But Baldwin makes the affirmation of the humanity of black people which is all too missing in various kinds of Superfly and sub-fly novels.

Pub Date: May 24, 1974

ISBN: 0307275930

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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