INHERITANCE

Like a series of evocative miniatures, a second novel by Ganesan (The Journey, 1990) that suggests the idyll of an imperfect matriarchy. Narrated by 15-year-old Sonil in brief episodes and glimpses, the story follows the girl's roundabout but assured awakening to herself on the multicultural, contemporary island of Pi off the Indian subcontinent. Though writing about a nearly Edenic place, Ganesan takes care that the Pi also come across as not altogether unworldly. And so we meet a down-at-the-heels collection of cosmopolitan wanderers and odd locals, earthy yet only inches removed from myth: Sonil's much-married and socially reviled, rebellious mother, who had more or less abandoned her daughter from the start; Sonil's generous and adorable grandmother, who—in a pleasantly shambling way—can do no wrong; her repressed but passionate cousin Jani, who desperately flees her suitors for a convent; and her ethereal great-uncle, a painter whose ``body was merely pretending to be flesh.'' Sonil meets an American who is twice her age; falls in love for the first time; and is left hanging when this love object picks up and leaves. Ultimately, Sonil's grandmother dies, though before that, people float in and land fleetingly, like mirages, on the island, which begins to resemble a microcosmic kaleidoscope of the human, the natural, and the magical folded into one—a small, storied panoply of Ganesan's imagination. But her style is relaxed, even casual. Unlike the righteous, raised tone of epics, polemics, and fictional creeds, hers is kind and humorous: ``I thought about animals and their capacity for change, how species evolved,'' Sonil muses. ``And I began to think of the ability to abstain from love as a particularly human trait. But . . . surely there were earthworms that were monkish in their habits?'' But the character of Sonil's American hippie boyfriend is tritely drawn, and the book's first third is too slowly plotted, like an anticlimactic reverie. Still, Ganesan's ingenious charms as a social and spiritual observer bejewel the novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-43442-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1997

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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