Pasulka suggests that economic chaos and grappling toward new political identity may require a subtler heroism than war does.


A debut about Poland from a high-school teacher living in Chicago.

The villagers mistake The Pigeon for a simpleton, but he’s wise in the ways of the heart. Smitten with gorgeous Anielica, he beseeches her father to let him renovate their home—for free. After setting her protagonist to work building a wall “to keep out the wild boars and the Gypsies,” Pasulka constructs a family epic sweeping from 1939 to the 1990s, the aftermath of Solidarity and its triumvirate of “pope, Walesa, and Milosz.” Having won her heart, The Pigeon supports Anielica through the hell of World War II, shooting a Soviet trying to burn the cherished home he rebuilt; his wife also proves indomitable, fighting off a Nazi attempting to rape her daughter. Fleeing to Kraków, they begin life anew. There, a half-century later, in the New Poland of “Adidas shoes, VCRs, Fuji film, lipstick” and other free-market wonders, their granddaughter Baba Yaga aims at fortune. But, as her clear-eyed cousin Irena quips, “capitalists are just communists without the polyester,” and times are still tough. Befriending Irena’s daughter, a new-style free spirit whose partying compromises her ambition to become a prosecutor, Baba Yaga works as a bar girl and falls for Tadeusz, one of Kraków’s up-and-coming clarinetists. Tadeusz, however, is torn between family pressure to join the army to land a secure career and the urges of his soul (music, Baba Yaga). Their love story, a distorted mirroring of Baba Yaga’s grandparents’ idealistic romance, encapsulates the complications and frustrations of modern Poland, whose earlier generations found themselves pitted against more straightforward, if fiercer, foes.

Pasulka suggests that economic chaos and grappling toward new political identity may require a subtler heroism than war does.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-05507-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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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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