Mildly entertaining, but the plot was fresher 15 years ago in the movie Wall Street, and there’s not a character as...

EXTRAVAGANCE

Krist’s third novel (after Chaos Theory, 2000, etc.) reminds us that there have been other New Economies as he blends his ambitious hero’s adventures in 1690s London with similar events in New York from September 1999 to March 2000.

Twenty-year-old William Merrick, “fourth son in a family whose brickworks would only comfortably support three,” goes to work for his uncle, prominent wine merchant Gilbert Hawking, but is far more interested in “the joyous intricacies of what was then called Dutch finance—that new, uncharted world of notes and shares an annuities.” Will is a classic young man on the make in 17th-century London until Chapter Three, when the hackney coach hailed in ‘Change Alley turns into a 20th-century taxi at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway. From then on, his first-person narrative alternates between the two periods but tells the same story in both. Uncle Gilbert entrusts Will with the nebulous task of helping him connect with companies creating new technologies. Among these is “an electronic switching thingie” developed by Benjamin Fletcher (in the 17th century, he’s come up with a new kind of winch), whose alluring sister Eliza wants “to open a chain of socially-responsible restaurants” (or “a series of charitable chophouses” circa 1690). Will is almost as attracted to Eliza as he is to the seemingly limitless potential for making money dangled in front of him by Ted Witherspoon, a promoter of IPOs (called “projects” in 17th-century London). The dual time frame is a clever gimmick, but no more than a gimmick as Will makes the familiar journey from hungry apprenticeship to unmerited affluence to deserved comeuppance. He makes money, but he loses the girl. This won’t bother readers much, however, since Eliza, is as one-dimensional as the rest of the schematic cast.

Mildly entertaining, but the plot was fresher 15 years ago in the movie Wall Street, and there’s not a character as galvanizing as Gordon Gekko anywhere in sight.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2002

ISBN: 0-7679-1330-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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