Turgid and meandering.

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ALL OTHER NIGHTS

Horn (The World to Come, 2006, etc.) details the adventures of a young Jewish spy for the Union.

In the hours before Passover 1862, 19-year-old Jacob Rappaport emerges from a smuggler’s barrel onto the New Orleans waterfront. The son of a wealthy New York merchant, he joined the Union Army to avoid an arranged marriage and has been sent South to kill his Uncle Harry, suspected (rightly) of planning to assassinate Lincoln. Jacob slips poison into his uncle’s seder wine, and Harry expires spectacularly, vomiting black bile onto the silver trays. Regrettably, this is the most dramatic moment in the novel. Jacob’s next assignment is to infiltrate a Virginia household and marry beautiful Rebel spy Eugenia Levy. Assisted by her three sisters, she’s passing on military secrets blabbed by a Union officer too pompous to realize “that ladies also have brains.” Horn’s Dan Brown–like fascination with codes and passwords is unlikely to be shared by readers, nor is the romance terribly compelling. Jacob falls for Eugenia and succeeds in marrying her, but his ambivalent vacillations between shame and bravado make him a weak hero. Eventually the sisters are arrested and Eugenia is reported dead: more shame for Jacob, who has now betrayed his wife as well as killed his uncle. His mission is over, but the novel is only half finished. Jacob returns to the South as a regular soldier—primarily, one suspects, so Horn can work Grant’s order to expel Jews into the plot. Crippled and partially blinded in an accident, Jacob volunteers for one last mission, which involves gaining the trust of Judah Benjamin, the Jewish brains behind the Confederacy in Richmond. Two big questions remain: Is Eugenia still alive? Will Jacob be a fool for love? Make that three: Does anyone care?

Turgid and meandering.

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06492-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2009

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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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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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