There’s something wrong with a novel in which a twisted, exploitative sexual relationship is far less interesting than are...

DIARY OF A BAD YEAR

The 2003 Nobel winner’s latest (Inner Workings: 2000–2005, 2007, etc.) is another drama shaped as intellectual argument, unhappily akin to its immediate predecessors Elizabeth Costello (2003) and (the somewhat livelier) Slow Man (2005).

Its protagonist, an eminent and aging author initially identified as Señor C., has agreed to contribute his thoughts about the state of the contemporary world to a volume presenting its several contributors’ “Strong Opinions.” As C. undertakes this task, he simultaneously develops an avuncular relationship with Anya, the gorgeous young woman he meets in their building’s laundry room, and eventually establishes a more formal acquaintance with Anya’s lover Alan. The latter is an “investment consultant” who tests Anya’s resolve by suggesting strategies to exploit C.’s evident appreciation of her beauty, and embezzle funds from his presumable great wealth. In a narrative that we read both from top to bottom of each page and horizontally, following arguments continued on facing pages, C. fulminates, Anya frets and Alan schemes. C.’s strong opinions consider the formation of political states; the current administration's rampant contempt for law and the related “crimes” of its enablers; radical feminism's attacks on pornography; the inhumane treatment of animals and indifference to their rights; the devaluation of modern culture; and the “authority” with which great writers (notably Tolstoy) render the warp and woof and detail of human experience. Late in the book, Coetzee’s serial drone, the aforementioned Elizabeth Costello, shows up (doesn’t she always?), and any pretense that C. is not Coetzee is airily abandoned. Otherwise, there’s no development. C. brandishes his erudition. Anya is, fleetingly, intriguingly fiery. And Alan is a bloody bore.

There’s something wrong with a novel in which a twisted, exploitative sexual relationship is far less interesting than are dozens of pages of discursive commentary. But that’s the new, improved Coetzee for you. Maybe we should blame the Swedish Academy.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-670-01875-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more