A qualified success, at best. But there’s no doubt that Yoshimura is a very considerable talent. One looks forward to seeing...


A Japanese war veteran’s ordeal as a fugitive from American justice—in an ambitious though curiously uninvolving early (1978) novel by the bestselling author of Shipwrecks (1996) and On Parole (2000).

Takuya Kirohawa, a former officer in Japan’s Imperial Army, is summoned to appear before US Occupation Army officers in Tokyo, shortly after the conclusion of WWII. Having participated in the executions of captured American bomber pilots, Takuya knows what fate awaits him—and goes into hiding, traveling throughout his destroyed country to the homes of one relative or friend after another, before finally finding a compassionate host family who (without knowing either his true identity or his circumstances) find him work as a laborer in a rebuilt match factory. Yoshimura writes feelingly of Takuya’s understandable bitterness: he had (under strict orders) beheaded a single enemy soldier, while US pilots had wreaked unprecedented havoc on nonmilitary targets, climaxing with the decisive bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Unfortunately, this personal dimension is swallowed up in thinly dramatized summaries of historical fact—presented both as Takuya’s detailed memories and as information he gleans, piecemeal, from newspaper stories. The result is that the novel’s focus on Takuya’s embattled mind and heart is continually distracted, and the reader’s identification with this otherwise quite fully realized character waxes and wanes erratically. Nevertheless, Yoshimura’s depiction of postwar Japan as a hollowed-out landscape marked by poverty, famine, despair, and passive “fraternization” with unrepentant conqueror Americans, has real power. And the closing pages, which focus on Takuya’s capture, nine-year-imprisonment, and unexpected release (in 1957), rise to a level of very nearly tragic irony—and also, incidentally, sow the seeds of Yoshimura’s superb On Parole (2000).

A qualified success, at best. But there’s no doubt that Yoshimura is a very considerable talent. One looks forward to seeing more of his scrupulous, intense fiction in English translation.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-100639-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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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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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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