A Machiavellian political thriller that makes Heilemann and Halperin’s nonfiction Game Change look sedate by comparison.

THE MEANS

A reluctant politician learns that codes of honor never survive the vicious process of electing an American president.

After flushing out the filth of Wall Street in his debut novel, Brunt (Ghosts of Manhattan, 2012) turns his attention to the seductive world of American politics. Our entree into this scene comes via Samantha Davis, an attorney who has parlayed her skills and looks into a job as the White House correspondent for UBS, a major news network. In this fiction, the U.S. is under the leadership of President Barack Obama’s successor, a bizarre and domineering Democrat named Mitchell Mason. Meanwhile, a conservative attorney named Tom Pauley is tapped by GOP leadership to take a term as governor of North Carolina and ultimately agrees to take his shot at the big job. Brunt takes his time weaving together the stories of these three players, who ultimately prove to be far more connected than they might seem. The book’s primary crisis surfaces when Samantha comes under the sway of Conner Marks, a political fixer who shares with her the crumbs of a political scandal that could send Mason’s comfortable lead tumbling down if it surfaces. As this drama unfolds, Pauley—a fiscal and social conservative with middle-class American values—finds his own beliefs crumbling under the weight of obligatory ethical concessions as Election Day draws near. There are a few well-worn tropes (the first lady’s lesbian affair joins a host of torrid liaisons that always seem to inhabit this kind of closed ecosystem), but they don't derail the narrative tension. Overall, the novel presents a well-researched portrait of the incestuous relationships between the media and Beltway power players while avoiding the broad humor of Joe Klein’s Primary Colors. Tonally, it’s much closer to Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North, which itself was memorably adapted to film as The Ides of March.

A Machiavellian political thriller that makes Heilemann and Halperin’s nonfiction Game Change look sedate by comparison.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7257-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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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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