A fine, quiet, and rewarding portrait, written in fluid verse that is both unobtrusive and elegant.



Novelist/poet Leithauser (A Few Corrections, 2001, etc.) himself admits that this one is long for a poem but short for a novel. Still, it’s a pleasant hybrid no matter how you look at it.

Russel Darlington is one of those intrepid early-modern souls whose faith in science and dedication to human progress helps set the course of the 20th century, for better and for worse. Born in 1888 in Storey, Indiana, Darlington is the son of a wealthy merchant and loses his mother while still a young boy. Fascinated by insects, lizards, and snakes, he becomes a passionate student of biology and many years later is appointed professor of entomology at Old U., his alma mater. Though bookish and shy by nature, he manages to win the heart of Pauline Beaudette, an Old U. classmate from St. Louis, whom he marries against his father’s better wishes. It’s an unhappy union almost from the start: Pauline finds Darlington’s scientific pursuits boring, and she’s bitterly disappointed, as well, in her failure to conceive a child. The two divorce, and Pauline eventually goes mad. Darlington immerses himself in his work, setting off on a long expedition to study butterflies on the tiny Pacific island of Malaya, where he nearly dies after falling from a cliff. He recuperates in the US, resumes his university career, and (with the fortune he inherits from his father) founds a natural history museum. Solitary in his habits and highly focused on his work, he is content to live as a single man—until he falls in love with Marja Szumski, the 21-year-old daughter of his housekeeper.

A fine, quiet, and rewarding portrait, written in fluid verse that is both unobtrusive and elegant.

Pub Date: March 27, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-41148-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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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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