Busch at his best: nobody does it better.

A MEMORY OF WAR

A legacy of suffering, betrayal, and guilt inexorably pursues, and shapes, the protagonist of Busch’s powerfully developed 19th novel (The Night Inspector, 1999, etc.).

In a seamless fusion of scene, dialogue, and reminiscence, Busch draws us into the turbulent psyche of Manhattan psychologist Alexander Lescziak, the only child of Polish refugees who had escaped the Holocaust by fleeing to England, then America. Alex’s wife Liz is in love with another man (his colleague, as it happens). His own affair with a possibly suicidal patient, Nella Grensen, has been abruptly terminated when Nella simply disappears. And his new patient—reserved, saturnine William Kessler—claims he is Lescziak’s half-brother: the child of Alex’s late mother Sylvia and a German POW she had met in England. The intensity with which these and other relationships are explored is heightened by Busch’s deft employment of interior monologue, notably in sequences where Alex remembers his own past, and also imagines in heartrending detail his mother’s adultery and enduring grief. Busch is also a virtuoso maker of revelatory extended metaphors (e.g., “ [Alex’s] mind falling away from him like liquid carried by a small child in a heavy pot . . .”). But the heart of the story is contained in Lescziak’s long, wrenching conversations (in which he assumes the roles of mentor, seeker, and victim): with the appalling Kessler (a self-styled “historian” who denies that the Holocaust occurred), his dying father Januscz (his patient), a violence-prone transit policeman and Vietnam veteran, the woman detective who investigates Nella’s disappearance, the wife he’s losing and the friend (Teddy Levenson) to whom he’s losing her—each a firmly defined, unforgettable character. We come to know Alexander Lescziak as fully as we know any character in contemporary fiction, thanks to the wizardry of one of the great living masters of fictional technique.

Busch at his best: nobody does it better.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-393-04978-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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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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