The sense of loss pervading these Holocaust-stricken pages is almost overwhelming—even if The Illuminated Soul does spend...


A studious young Jewish boy sees a wider and more exciting world after a beautiful and mysterious woman enters his family’s house in Windsor, Ontario.

Narrated by the boy, Joseph, from his vantage decades later as a well-traveled and respected neuroanatomist, the story tells of that beautiful stranger, Eva Laquedem. Soon after WWII, the queenly Eva comes to rent a room; and, almost before she has introduced herself, the family—Joseph, his mother, his little brother Asa—has solidly fallen in love with her. Before her arrival, Eva had hopscotched around the globe after fleeing her home of Prague on the eve of WWII. She kept with her the entire time a precious 15th-century illuminated Hebrew text called the Augsbury Miscellany, highly sought after by collectors and scholars. A great deal of this utterly graceful second novel by Stollman (The Far Euphrates, 1997) deals with the ruminative contents of the manuscript and its philosophical implications. In Joseph’s telling, it seems that Eva hardly stops speaking from the second she sets foot in his house, though that hardly seems to bother her enthralled audience. It doesn’t hurt that her tales are full of drama, history, and passion, not to mention laced with erudite quotations and learned references. In fewer words, we learn about Joseph’s mother, quietly struggling to make a career for herself as a caterer, and Asa, a delicate child slowly going blind. Eva’s sound and fury can grow oppressive, and it may be hard to imagine anyone—even a lonely family like this—so desperate for civilized conversation and a whiff of foreign intrigue as to put up with her so patiently. But Stollman is a writer of rare skill, every line molded and sculpted to perfection, and life in a small Canadian Jewish community is well rendered.

The sense of loss pervading these Holocaust-stricken pages is almost overwhelming—even if The Illuminated Soul does spend too much time on its least interesting character.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2002

ISBN: 1-57322-201-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet