THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR

If you hopped along with Watership Down or whooped it up with Hanta Yo, you might just go for this startling novelty item which, like a statuette of Venus de Milo with a clock in her stomach, unites the informative with a livelier art: anthropological speculations about the Ice Age illustrated by the odyssey of a remarkably sophisticated Clan of Neanderthals and their Cro-Magnon foundling, Ayla. Adopted as a child by the beetle-browed Clan of the Cave Bear after her people perish in an earthquake, Ayla looks different and is different: the frontal lobes of her brain are more developed than those of the back-brained Clan. (The Clansfolk do, however, have extraordinary memories which reach back to their own evolution.) Still, odd little Ayla is mothered by medicine woman Iza; she reveres her father-figure and mentor, Magician (Mog-ur) Creb, whose brain is the best of the Clan, mystical-memory-wise; and it is Creb who shockingly proclaims that Ayla (who has been clawed by a lion) belongs to the most powerful male totem, the Cave Lion, and is not meant to be docile and subservient. Indeed, with her "forward-thinking frontal lobes," Ayla teaches herself to hunt (forbidden to women), revealing her secret when she saves a child from a beast. And at last she is accepted as the Woman Who Hunts after surviving a "Death-Curse" (a month alone). But when abusive, angry Broud impregnates Ayla, she bears a mixed-breed child and later must leave child and Clan when Broud becomes leader. . . though the Clan is doomed and the emergence of a new human being is on its way. True, Auel's Neanderthals often have some awfully peculiar notions cooking on those back brains of theirs. And anachronisms run wild through the wilderness ("You call yourself a hunter," says the Clan leader, "You expect to control a clan when you can't even control yourself?"). But it's all written with nerveless esprite admirable scenery, swell sex, convincing artifacts and survival modese and, when clubbed on by heavy publisher advertising, this first novel (first of six in a projected early-man series) may well prove curiously primitive enough to catch on in a big way.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1980

ISBN: 0553381679

Page Count: -

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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