A clear-eyed fictional account by one of the survivors.

NO BONES

Belfast-born first-novelist Burns paints a scathing, rigorously unsentimental portrait of an insular, provincial-minded Northern Irish community struggling to survive through the Troubles, beginning in 1969 and stretching through the mid-’90s.

When the bombs start going off around the working-class town of Ardoyne, riven between Catholics and Protestants, Amelia Lovett and her scabby friends know that their play world has changed for good. Amelia's transplanted British cousin James Tone is sent on army duty to nearby Belfast as violence and suspicion between the warring factions mount, and his swift, “apparently motiveless” murder (he is simply walking in the wrong section of town at night) adds to the creeping sense that events are spiraling wildly out of control. By degrees Burns introduces the visceral, incriminating detail that dooms the roiling Lovett clan: with the rise of the IRA, older son Mick gets swept up into teenage gangs of drunken, vigilante, knee-capping thugs; older daughter Lizzie forms her own girl combat clique before descending into drugs and suicide; middle daughter Amelia drops out of school and takes refuge in alcohol, anorexia, and boys, while father and mother alternate from extreme brutality to utter indifference. In discrete, themed, and dated chapters, the author skillfully illustrates the disintegration of an entire community. Retributive, pathological nuns force the children to write a so-called peace poem. Vincent, a friend of Amelia’s abandoned by his mother, slips into delusions of spying and explosions. Young women scarred by their own emotional battlefields keep having babies, and the violence-numbed men rail blisteringly against independent women and outsiders. Burns never once winces or loses control of her material in this mordant, wry, unforgiving tale of the loss of innocence, for a girl and her country.

A clear-eyed fictional account by one of the survivors.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-393-32303-X

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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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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