Ford (The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, 2002, etc.) romps engagingly here—his Schell an intriguing scoundrel, as if Sherlock...

THE GIRL IN THE GLASS

1932—hard times for most; easy pickings for flim-flammers.

But, of course, you gotta know the territory. Which, for the ladies and gentlemen of the con, means locating that apex where the swollen wallet meets the fat susceptibility. Thomas Schell, a confidence man descended from confidence men, is a dab hand at isolating the mark. His current game is spiritualism, and when deep in a “mediumistic state” he can charm the ghosts from the nether world so convincingly that he and his two trusty aides are making a good thing out of the Depression. His aids: swami Ondoo, Schell’s mystical deputy, and Antony Cleopatra, third banana, chauffeur and muscle in time of need. Ondoo, aka Diego, a young Mexican illegal befriended by Schell, serves as narrator. He idolizes his benefactor, aims no higher than to match the skills that have made Schell enviable in the con community. But the incisive, miss-nothing Schell is less than himself these days—-a kind of weltschmerz seems to have undercut his transcendent amorality. It’s about this time that Schell sees, or imagines he sees, the eponymous girl in the glass and is knocked sideways by the apparition. A child is missing, he subsequently learns, her family desperate, the police baffled, and Schell, impenetrably skeptical to now, thinks he might have been given a sign. In the meantime, there are other developments to cope with. For one, Diego has fallen in love, diminishing, to a considerable degree, his ability to focus. For another, there’s the bothersome presence of a bevy of KKK-like crackpots, their mission: the racial purification of Long Island, N.Y. Suddenly, the trickster life has gone complicated.

Ford (The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, 2002, etc.) romps engagingly here—his Schell an intriguing scoundrel, as if Sherlock Homes had a Moriarity taint in his gene pool.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-621127-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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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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