Sweeping both geographically and intellectually; a literary page-turner.

IN THE GARDEN OF THE FUGITIVES

A South African expatriate now living in Australia and her much-older American benefactor wrestle with obsession and guilt while reconstructing the stories that brought them together many years earlier in Dovey’s (Only the Animals, 2015) psychological excavation.

Seventeen years after their last contact, Vita, now approaching 40, receives an email from Royce, kicking off a predatory dance of what she calls “mutual confession.” What follows is less correspondence—the missives soon ditch the formal trappings of “letters”—than parallel narratives, similarly haunted by loss and by shame. Raised by political activists between apartheid South Africa and Australia, Vita spends her college years at an unnamed-but-hallowed Boston institution making documentary films without any people in them, unable or unwilling to place herself in her own country’s history. “In order to confess,” college-aged Vita thinks, but does not say, “one must have sinned—but I am unsure which of that country’s multiple sins are to be placed directly at my feet.” It is the question that will shape her life. And it is Royce who will fund it: In her senior year, Vita receives a Lushington fellowship—an extraordinarily generous grant for “extraordinary women,” courtesy of Royce’s fortune. He, too, is wracked by guilt for his past, albeit on a somewhat more personal scale: As a student at their shared alma mater, he was in love with the then-aspiring archaeologist for whom the fellowship is named, spending years as her platonic companion and research assistant, following her to Pompeii, where she devoted herself to excavating the gardens and where she will fall victim to an untimely death. In a novel unabashedly about ideas, Dovey does not shy away from bluntly confronting big questions head-on, and yet—a testament to her skill—the book, while trembling with meaning, is neither obvious nor cumbersome but unsettlingly alive.

Sweeping both geographically and intellectually; a literary page-turner.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-22664-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

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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Like the many-windowed mansion at its center, this richly furnished novel gives brilliantly clear views into the lives it...

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THE DUTCH HOUSE

Their mother's disappearance cements an unbreakable connection between a pair of poor-little-rich-kid siblings.

Like The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer or Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach, this is a deeply pleasurable book about a big house and the family that lives in it. Toward the end of World War II, real estate developer and landlord Cyril Conroy surprises his wife, Elna, with the keys to a mansion in the Elkins Park neighborhood of Philadelphia. Elna, who had no idea how much money her husband had amassed and still thought they were poor, is appalled by the luxurious property, which comes fully furnished and complete with imposing portraits of its former owners (Dutch people named VanHoebeek) as well as a servant girl named Fluffy. When her son, Danny, is 3 and daughter, Maeve, is 10, Elna's antipathy for the place sends her on the lam—first occasionally, then permanently. This leaves the children with the household help and their rigid, chilly father, but the difficulties of the first year pale when a stepmother and stepsisters appear on the scene. Then those problems are completely dwarfed by further misfortune. It's Danny who tells the story, and he's a wonderful narrator, stubborn in his positions, devoted to his sister, and quite clear about various errors—like going to medical school when he has no intention of becoming a doctor—while utterly committed to them. "We had made a fetish out of our disappointment," he says at one point, "fallen in love with it." Casually stated but astute observations about human nature are Patchett's (Commonwealth, 2016, etc.) stock in trade, and she again proves herself a master of aging an ensemble cast of characters over many decades. In this story, only the house doesn't change. You will close the book half believing you could drive to Elkins Park and see it.

Like the many-windowed mansion at its center, this richly furnished novel gives brilliantly clear views into the lives it contains.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-296367-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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