RINGING FOR YOU

A witty transatlantic debut about the perils of a bright young woman trapped behind a switchboard at one of London’s more demented City offices. The take-this-job-and-shove-it genre is a favorite among young writers for a simple reason: Most have to pay the bills in some dreadful fashion during the long gray dawn before they are ever published. Forrester’s heroine, however, finishes her novel while she works a dreadful day job. Her novel is a journal really, though she can—t quite put everything into it. Especially names. Like her own, for starters, and that of her boyfriend (who forbids her to mention him and is only referred to as the Man Who Mustn—t be Mentioned, or MWMM). And she must mind what she says about the office itself; her father assures her that libel laws are quite strict in Britain. Although her real interest is literature, The Academy of Material Science in London hired her as a receptionist fresh out of university, and she does manage to get quite a bit of writing done at her desk despite the constant ringing of the phone and the endless parade of messengers dropping off packages. But she has little faith in herself, either as a writer or a person——I ought to be able to transform my misery into something else through writing, but instead I just write about it and it stays the same——and most of the time her affair with the MWMM seems as pointless to her as her manuscript does. Is she deluded? Or just inexperienced? Eventually, she concludes that “the beginning of love is a story, the end of love is a story, but before the end the middle might mean anything.” Something plenty of married couples and successful authors take a lifetime to discover. Candid, fresh, and likable: Forrester’s naturalistic tone and elegant voice more than compensate for her slightly—and endearingly—aimless narrative.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-86292-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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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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