Entertaining, but the milk here is decidedly skim.


From the Patrick Melrose series , Vol. 4

In this mordant British comedy, a father determined to protect his sons from the miseries of his own childhood inadvertently initiates new and different ordeals for his family.

At the birth of his elder son Robert, Patrick Melrose, an established barrister married to Mary, wonders why no license is required for parenting, when one is necessary to own a dog or drive a car. By the time Thomas comes along five years later, Patrick has worked himself into a froth of neurotic projections. His sadistic father never failed to raise “the hurdle at the last moment to make sure that Patrick cracked his shins.” How can he keep his own accumulated sadness and rage from affecting his beloved boys? Why does his wife prefer to take their infant son to bed instead of him? And does that give him dispensation to have an affair? Meantime, Patrick’s mother asks him to draw up legal documents that leave all her money and her fabulous French farmhouse to a New Age shaman. (Torn between duty and matricide, Patrick ultimately complies with his own disinheritance.) The tale is told in four sections, each set a year apart, in August, when the Melrose family “enjoys” their summer vacations. The points of view change with each section, beginning with Robert who, even at age five, understands his father better than Patrick does himself; next is Patrick, who quaffs great quantities of liquor in a vain attempt to mute his pugilistic sarcasm, which always results in making things worse; then Mary, who redoubles her dedication to her thriving sons as Patrick self-destructs; and finally, the whole family, as they learn where true wealth lies. St. Aubyn (Some Hope, 2003) touchingly conveys the near-clairvoyance of deep familial attachment—especially between parent and child—but certain plot elements seem to hew to a logic outside the framework of the tale, undermining its emotional impact.

Entertaining, but the milk here is decidedly skim.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-890447-40-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Open City

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet