Rich in ideas and true to the real world: a promising debut.

THE FIRST VERSE

Young Irish newcomer McCrea works Joyce’s territory with Beckettian irony—and a healthy splash of Patrick White.

Niall Lenihan has come up to Dublin to do his studies at Trinity. He’s not exactly a bumpkin, just a boy fresh off a crush on a boy who is now off to the continent, ignoring his cellphone calls and text messages. These little techno-accouterments are important to McCrea’s story, the stuff of subtext and context; via text messages, Niall begs off beery meetings with his college chums to visit what was “for a long time Dublin’s only gay pub and still the unrivaled center of Dublin’s homosexual world” and suchlike places, where his horizons and circle of acquaintances most definitely expand. So do they when, inspired by a shadowy figure with a wondrously improbable name, Niall and school friends are drawn into a literary game inspired by the old Roman sortes virgilianae, by which the answers to life’s questions are to be located among the lines of the Aeneid. Niall’s texts are broader, including novels, poems and even travel guides; naturally, Joyce turns up early on, convincing Niall of the merits of the game: when he challenges pal Fionnuala to tell him where his parents live, she dusts off Ulysses to reply, “Oh damn you and your Paris fads . . . I want Sandycove milk.” You don’t have to be Irish—or gay—to follow the twists of McCrea’s plot, though it might help at points to have read Maeve Binchy, to know what an “RTÉ accent” sounds like, and to have some sense of the layout of Dublin and, later, Paris, where Niall’s bibliomanic fortunes take him far from Sandycove, to spend his hours “being led to an apartment block where the initial letters of the names on the bells formed an acrostic of ‘Sarah’ . . . or ending up in conversation with a drunk Irish gay man in the Marais called John.”

Rich in ideas and true to the real world: a promising debut.

Pub Date: June 6, 2005

ISBN: 0-7867-1513-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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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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