Miss Welty's South, the hill country of Northeast Mississippi, is once again like its catalpa trees in full bloom. On the first page, the marvelous descriptive power which carries so much of her writing makes itself felt—"Then a house appeared on its ridge, like an old man's silver watch pulled once more out of its pocket." This is her first book in some fifteen years; a writer of short stories and shorter novels, this is her first attempt to transpose the minor work of art into a major achievement and one of its losing battles may well be its length, testing the patience of those outside the cult. Here and there, during this mighty get-together, the reunion of a family on the 90th birthday (she says 100th) of Granny Vaughn, some of it runs to grass. It's the occasion when Granny expects to "see all the great-great-grandchildren they care to show me" along with her clutch of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Granny's mind sometimes slips, and well through this memorable day she's asking for her presents; they're all around her—a prayer plant or a new apron or a sodabox full of sage. The day is also remarkable in that after two years, one of the great-grandchildren, Jack, is being released from the pen—to join them and his wife and his baby (although for a time it seems he might lose them both to a lurching car—an episode which with its retrieval is one of the many comic scenes). He's not the kind to give up; nor is his wife Gloria (who grew up an orphan never knowing who was her father) nor is the former schoolteacher of Banner who attempted to block their marriage. She was the most embattled of them all. . . . Miss Welty once defined the novel as "reflections and visions of all life we know compounded through art." Along with her blood knowledge of the South which has earned those many comparisons with Faulkner, there is her cosmic vision—part innocence, part forgiveness ("the besetting sin" in this house), part comedy, an ever-flowing affection for all that walks and crawls and creeps, and in conjunction with the homemade pleasures, the more mysterious penultimates. They're all here.

Pub Date: April 13, 1970

ISBN: 0679728821

Page Count: 458

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1970

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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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