A rambling satire that fails to clearly identify its targets.

THE STORY OF MY PURITY

Whatever happened to sex? A married right-wing Catholic rediscovers chastity in this slow tease of a novel from the Italian author.

At some point after 9/11, a young Roman called Piero Rosini returned to the religion of his childhood. “[F]ear of the Apocalypse, together with an immense need of love, restored [him] to the flock of the eternal children of Jesus.” There is no elaboration of this moment, though it drives the novel. Piero didn’t just get right with Jesus, he championed sexual abstinence. As for his fiancee, Alice, “our engagement had been desexed, by mutual agreement.” When we first meet Piero in Rome, now married and pushing 30, it’s late 2005. He’s an editor at a right-wing Catholic publishing house marked by a “sophisticated anti-Semitism” that will flower with its forthcoming book The Jewish Pope, a bizarre take on John Paul II. In a jarring transition, but with the support of his wife, Alice, who chooses to stay behind, Piero moves to Paris to work for a similarly reactionary publisher. Sampling the night life, he meets four “bobos” (bourgeois bohemians), young women who talk dirty, do drugs and sleep around. Despite himself, Piero is intrigued by them, especially by Clelia, who’s Jewish, and her uncle Leo, who makes Piero his protégé, Judaizing him, calling him Rosenzweil. The Italian stays chaste, however, passing up many opportunities to make love to the more than willing Clelia, and what might have been the entertaining story of a prude undone by Parisian fleshpots is something less: a portrait of a passive, pampered individual unable to resolve his conflicts. Though Pacifico makes a show of using four-letter words, he won’t write about sex. When the long-suffering, barely characterized Alice visits Paris and makes love to her husband, the astonishing development is dismissed in a sentence. It’s no surprise that the closing section is a chaotic cop-out. 

A rambling satire that fails to clearly identify its targets.

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-27044-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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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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