Fluctuating between wry observation and solemn introspection, this is an expressive, tantalizing and ingeniously constructed...

PRAGUE SUMMER

A couple’s world is turned upside down when a friend visits in this Kafkaesque literary thriller by debut novelist Condran.

Married for a decade, Americans Henry and Stephanie have settled into a comfortable life in Prague, where she works for the State Department and he owns a shop specializing in rare books. Condran channels his love of literature and the city of Prague through Henry’s many allusions to literary works and Czech landmarks. When Stephanie’s old college friend Selma Al-Khateeb plans a visit, she immediately jumps into protective mode. Stephanie and her former roommates always considered Selma special, the best among them, but lately, Selma’s life has been nothing short of surreal. Her husband, Mansour, arrested under the Patriot Act, has been held in federal custody for more than a year without being charged, and Selma’s exhausted all avenues of help. Stephanie and Henry view Selma’s visit as a chance for her to catch her breath and have a diversion from these disturbing events, but for Selma, her visit holds a deeper purpose. She’s damaged and frightened, and Henry’s strong reaction to her presence results in unanticipated feelings and actions that threaten to overpower his life. On the one hand, he continues to conduct business, while on the other, he takes Selma on a routine literary tour of Prague that ends with a frantic plea. Unwilling to cross certain boundaries, Henry tries to help but knows his attempt is more an empty gesture than an effective solution. Eventually, a business trip to evaluate and catalog a rare-book collection changes his entire perspective.

Fluctuating between wry observation and solemn introspection, this is an expressive, tantalizing and ingeniously constructed study of human character.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61902-310-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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