If you have to read it, better open a nice French red.


Vapid and pretentious tale of obsessive love.

French writer Oster, author of eight previous novels, debuts here with an enigmatic, largely pointless, deadpan, unsatisfying, and extremely self-important story. It begins with Jacques, a middle-aged corporate manager, in a kind of extended meditation as he takes stock of his life after the departure of his old girlfriend Constance. After six months of refusing to clean his apartment, he decides to hire a cleaner and calls Laura, whose handbill he had noticed, and engages her for two days a week. Laura is 25, rather sullen, and not terribly clean-looking to the fastidious Jacques, though he finds himself oddly intrigued. He begins to call his apartment when he knows she’s there, and later he arranges to be home while she cleans so he can watch her. Laura is polite but shows little warmth toward Jacques, so he is surprised when she suddenly asks him one day if she can move in with him. It’s a pragmatic arrangement (she’s broken up with her boyfriend and can’t afford a place of her own), but before long she and Jacques are sleeping together, and very quickly they—well, they don’t fall in love exactly, but they become very strongly dependent on each other. Jacques thinks about his new lover in considerable detail (“I focused on . . . Laura’s vagina at rest. Closed. But not too closed . . .”), and they even vacation together. But they’re not happy. Laura falls in love with a younger man, but she won’t leave Jacques without his permission. He thinks she should leave, though it’s not as if he has the right to give her permission. He discusses it with his depressed friend Claire, who can’t help him. There’s a kind of rescue at the end, but not a happy ending, exactly. It’s much more nuanced than that.

If you have to read it, better open a nice French red.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-59051-039-9

Page Count: 125

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet