Overall, though, clever structure, swift pacing, emotional insight, and an ultimately charming voice make this one a...


A fine, smart, funny newcomer brings a bit of Bridget Jones, a touch of High Fidelity, a high pop-cultural IQ, and a refreshing emotional take to her debut outing.

Eliza Simon’s first crush, at age ten, was Jack Wagner, the airbrushed pop heartthrob to whom she devotes herself when her distant, jazz-buff father disappears from her life. At 26, her tastes have changed, but not that much. There’s been a string of “rock star” boyfriends, each dumped as soon as Eliza spots his fatal flaw: that he’s human, not the romantic, über-cool ideal she’d thought. A copywriter at a travel agency, Eliza hangs out at a local club, picks up musicians, watches Behind the Music and ’80s sitcoms, and brings tuna casserole and irony to monthly dinners with her family. She’s also working (or not working) on her book, a guide to dating rock stars, each chapter starting with a mix tape and telling the story of one of her boyfriends—the dark, brooding guitarist and laid-back sax-player of high school; the organic, communard, jam-band singer in college—the same stories as the novel now tells. Her book is the only thing Eliza doesn’t share with best friends, neither fast, funny Andrew (who, in a movie, she tells us, would turn out to be her true love) nor sweet, understanding, hippie-ish Hannah. Sister Camilla’s pregnancy and Hannah’s engagement jar Eliza into doing things differently, and she goes on a date with a securities analyst. Which, amusingly, is even worse than she’d feared. When that doesn’t change her life, she plunges into crisis (and flails about for an ending for her book), nicely resolved in a moving, genuine, growing-up moment. Much is overfamiliar here (snack cakes as a food group; the “perfect” sister; Eliza being wacky because she talks to her cat), and a multiply pierced 26-year-old bemoaning spinsterhood gives pause at this late date.

Overall, though, clever structure, swift pacing, emotional insight, and an ultimately charming voice make this one a standout.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7434-6467-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Downtown Press/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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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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