An ambitious, moving exploration of desire and loss, by a subtle, persuasive writer. Hobbie (Boomfell, 1991; The Day, 1993) once again probes the imaginations and libidos of a group of urbane, accomplished characters, most of them middle-aged, all of them nursing amatory regrets. The story focuses on Henry, a successful writer still grief-stricken by the death of a daughter (Hobbie also wrote Being Brett, 1996, a memoir of his own daughter's death from cancer), who has taken up residence in his sister-in-law Mary's summer house in Vermont. Mary is unwilling to go there, because her scientist husband Fitz dropped dead at the house the previous year. Meanwhile, Henry's wife Elizabeth, worn down by his inability to move beyond his profound grief, is spending the summer touring England with a friendand is being pursued by a self-assured acquaintance convinced that she secretly wants to have an affair with him. Matters become more complicated when Helen, a book-editor friend of Fitz's, shows up in Vermont looking for himnot knowing, of course, that Fitz has died. A plot-within-a-plot develops when Henry discovers in Fitz's computer a frank, disturbing journal the dead man had been keeping to chronicle his increasingly complex relations with Helen and Mary. And Henry, unsurprisingly, finds himself also being drawn to Helen. Hobbie deftly balances the voices here, nicely catching the varying meditations of these bright, reflective figures on desire, the conflicting needs for intimacy and freedom, the fear of aging and of death, and the yearning of the middle-aged for the exuberance of youthful love. A shocking death by accident dramatically alters the lives of the survivors, and Hobbie offers a terse but elegiac conclusion, picking up the lives of the remaining figures a year after the loss. Sad, precise meditations by a writer displaying remarkable precision and control.

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8050-5492-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1998

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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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