A wonderfully humane and satisfying meditative romance from the Presbyterian minister and veteran author (On the Road With the Archangel, 1997, etc.). The major actions here occur on and around Plantation Island, site of an upper-class Florida resort “ruled” by wealthy spinster Violet Sickert. To the island has come Kenzie Maxwell, a thrice-married writer in “exile” following his “scandalous” fathering of an illegitimate child, to join his prosperous new wife Willow, her underachieving, vaguely religious 40-year-old son Averill, and Willow’s live-in caretaker, the brutish Calvert Sykes (who believes he is Violet’s illegitimate son). As preparations for Kenzie’s 70th birthday party are shadowed by the imminent appearance of the disapproving older brother (Dalton) from whom he has long been estranged, and as a storm closes in on the island, the pattern that underlies this altogether fetching tale gradually becomes clear: Kenzie is the compromised wizard Prospero; his daughter “Bree” (Gabrielle) is Miranda; Averill, the sprite Ariel; Calvert, the “monster” Caliban; and so on. It’s a fascinating set of variations on the Shakespearean source, expressed in spare, simple declarative sentences that propel the story forward with commendable swiftness. Buechner moves skillfully among the viewpoints of several major characters—the reader is surprised by the generous shift of focus from nominal protagonist Kenzie so as to include Calvert’s determination to be respected and Violet Sickert’s desperate wish to be, at last, both loving and loved. All concludes with a series of funny and touching direct allusions to The Tempest (the drunken Trinculo’s worship of Caliban, for instance, takes the form of a naive Bishop mistaking Calvert for a country-western singer) and a lyrical valediction declaring Kenzie’s sincere affection for his family, their loved ones, and others everywhere who are “endlessly trying, like him, to find whence they really belonged.— A marvelous adaptation of Shakespeare—one of the best ever.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-061144-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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