A pretty obvious morality tale: well written but nothing new.


Second-novelist Baker (Naming the New World, 1997) tells of two WWII vets, from wildly different backgrounds, whose lives intersect tragically in the postwar Deep South.

Mather Rose and Lewis Hampton both went off to war and found that, on a daily basis, peace is harder to deal with. From a prosperous and self-assured family, Mather is a black Californian who led a highly decorated black unit through some of the worst fighting in Germany and was nominated for the Medal of Honor. Lewis is from a modest white family in backwoods Mississippi and comes home with a Silver Star. He falls in love with a New Orleans socialite, convinces her father to consent to their marriage, and starts to work for her family’s business. Sensitive and intelligent, Lewis had begun during the war to question his ancestral notions of white supremacy, and, despite his rapid rise at his father-in-law’s firm, he now, after four years in the army, finds southern life constricting and parochial. Mather, who had lived in Paris and traveled widely before the war, feels just as cooped up—and is incensed to learn that the Pentagon has refused to consider his nomination for the Medal of Honor because he’s black. So he climbs into his new Lincoln Zephyr and, with typical impetuosity, sets off from for Washington to register his protest. This means that he has to pass through Mississippi on the way, and a black man driving an expensive car in 1946 isn’t a sight to pass unnoticed. At a gas station in the little town of Meridian, Mather is attacked by Nathan Hampton (older brother of Lewis), and, in the brawl that ensues, Mather kills Nathan. Captured and identified as the killer, Mather hasn’t a prayer of escaping a lynch mob—unless Lewis intervenes.

A pretty obvious morality tale: well written but nothing new.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-03164-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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