Advocacy fiction—a little preachy and obvious but also genuinely passionate about both the cause of African wildlife and the...


Two Americans have life-altering experiences in Africa a century apart in this environmentalist adventure novel from Schulman (A House Named Brazil, 2000, etc.).

In December 1899, Jeremy arrives in East Africa from Maine to work as engineer in the construction of a railroad that will open Africa up to colonists. Jeremy, whose homosexuality is not spoken of but obvious, has never fit in at home, and he soon realizes the other white man at the project site will not accept him. But he falls in love with Africa. Soon he is involved in hunting two lions that have been terrorizing both the local population and his Indian laborers. His local guide and fellow hunter is Otombe, who picked up English living with missionaries as a child. In December 2000 another Maine native arrives in Rwanda. Max is a botanist hired to search out miracle beta blockers reputed to exist in certain hard-to-find vines that endangered Rwanda gorillas use medicinally. She has always been an outsider, partly because her professor father was black but mainly because she has Asperger’s Syndrome. Never comfortable with human interactions, she forms an almost immediate kinship with the gorillas. Schulman shifts between Jeremy and Max’s experiences. Jeremy becomes a hero for shooting one of the lions. Parting from Otombe without expressing his true feelings, he sublimates them in his sexual liaison with an African woman who reminds him of Otombe and bears him a child he takes back to Maine. Max’s idyll with her new gorilla family is threatened by the growing power of a violent cult of child soldiers from the nearby Congo called the Kutu. As the marauding Kutus approach, Max goes into hiding among the gorillas with a sense of both joy and impending doom.

Advocacy fiction—a little preachy and obvious but also genuinely passionate about both the cause of African wildlife and the sensory experience of Africa, which Schulman brings to tactile life.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60945-064-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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