Shrouded in the foggy malaise of postwar London: Abse works a fascinating riff on the Dr. Jekyll theme without adhering to...


A doctor of questionable sanity becomes infatuated with the wife of his least-liked patient.

It’s a compliment to Welsh author Abse that even though he’s a retired doctor himself, you’d never know it. Here, his tale is made up of the journals of one Dr. Simmonds, a general practitioner in postwar London. Found by a present-day literary scout who is dubious of their literary value, the journals take us through some initially not-so-interesting developments in Simmonds’s everyday life. A bachelor, Simmonds lives in and runs his practice out of his childhood home. Although he apparently enjoys his solitude, there seems precious little else that he does like. His patients are by and large (to him) a complaining and unruly lot, and the large influx of European refugees, many Jewish, into the neighborhood and thus into his waiting room, has stirred up his severe anti-Semitism. One patient, especially, an Anton Bloomberg, seems to arouse his ire. Simmonds can’t stop commenting on Bloomberg’s noxious appearance and demeanor. Further inflaming the doctor is Bloomberg’s wife, Yvonne, whom Simmonds is convinced married Bloomberg simply for his money. The only counsel the physician receives is from his friend Rhys Morgan, who plays chess with him every Sunday, like clockwork. But Rhys’s comments only serve to stoke Simmonds’s imagination about what he sees as the unholy union between Bloomberg and “his gentle, Gentile wife.” The appearance of threatening letters that accuse Simmonds of being an evil man, and his compulsive reading of a novel (Dr. Glas, by Hjalmar Söderberg) about a doctor who conspires with a patient’s wife to kill the patient—these combined with Simmonds’s increasingly deluded writing style give hint to readers that they are in the company of a madman.

Shrouded in the foggy malaise of postwar London: Abse works a fascinating riff on the Dr. Jekyll theme without adhering to it slavishly.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7867-1201-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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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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