PARADISE OF THE BLIND

A novel of contemporary Vietnam—billed as ``the first Vietnamese novel ever published in the United States''—by a former Communist turned political dissident whose works have been recently banned in that country. The story is broadly of three women struggling to survive in a northern village and a Hanoi slum. But the narrative is secondary to the evocative descriptions of life under the Communists, of the countryside itself, and of the old customs that still prevail. Narrator Hang, a young woman working in the Soviet Union as an ``exported worker,'' has been summoned to Moscow by her uncle Chinh, who claims to be dying. On the long train journey through the icy Russian landscape, Hang recalls how Chinh, her mother's brother and a dedicated Communist, tore her family apart and destroyed the relationship between her mother and herself. An important Communist, Chinh brutally imposed the land-reform measures in his native village—an act that led to Hang's father fleeing, her redoubtable aunt Tam being impoverished, and her mother becoming a street-vendor in Hanoi. The regime moderates its excesses in time, though it is increasingly corrupt, and Aunt Tam rebuilds the family's wealth so that Hang will not have to suffer- -but she cannot forgive Chinh. Hang, caught between her mother's traditional deference to male relations—she starves Hang in order to provide money for Chinh—and her aunt's bitterness, is finally able to break with the past after her trip to Moscow: ``I can't squander my life tending these faded flowers, the legacy of past crimes.'' Slight, but enriched by vivid characters and telling descriptions of life as it really was in a place of mythic resonances in our own history. A welcome debut.

Pub Date: March 23, 1993

ISBN: 0-688-11445-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1993

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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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