Arguably a bit talkier than strictly necessary, but a tale that builds extra layers of complexity and power with every...


An unconventional midlife crisis unsparingly reveals its secretive protagonist’s outwardly successful life and persistent inner demons: the initially leisurely, eventually absorbing novel—the first in 14 years—from the veteran author of Southern Light (1986), etc.

The story’s opening pages summarize American Ben[edict] Oakshaw’s unremarkable adolescence, Marine combat experience in Viet Nam and later assigned duty in London (where a passing youthful interest in the theater blossoms into a genuine vocation), before he forsakes acting, returning home for a business career, creates his own advertising agency and marries the beautiful and devoted Priscilla. Their chance attendance at an American production of a play written by and starring Jill Davenport (Ben’s fellow drama student, and lover, in London) sparks a renewed friendship—and a “trance”-like summer at the Oakshaws’ Cape Hatteras beach house, where they’re joined by Jill and her “epicene” companion, journalist Tony Griswold, an affable cipher who seems to be in the book merely to prove Jill isn’t the kind of woman who’d be without male company. Neither is she the nonthreatening friend warmhearted “Priss” takes her for nor the abandoned siren the conflicted Ben half-hopes for. Still, their old acquaintance is rekindled, with a (literal) passion—the consequences of which emerge at the startling climax, when Jill’s new play (which Ben had agreed to “back,” script unseen) proves a “betrayal” that changes his life radically. Salamanca reveals the complex permutations of Ben’s relationships and his (defining) memories in a series of extended scenes (often dominated by brilliantly managed conversations) in which he hesitantly, then willfully tests the boundaries of his deepest commitments and worst impulses—and vividly dramatizes every stage of his unsuspected downward path to wisdom, and regret.

Arguably a bit talkier than strictly necessary, but a tale that builds extra layers of complexity and power with every finely tuned paragraph.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-56649-125-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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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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