FOE

Sometimes maddeningly, sometimes brilliantly elusive, Coetzee's new novel gives the Robinson Crusoe story a deconstructionist turn, adding new characters and including the vexed reactions and wisdoms of the original's author himself, Defoe (the foe—upon whom a story breaks not always willingly). Susan Barton is a young widow shipwrecked and thrown to safety on the very island where Crusoe and his man Friday eke out their existence. Crusoe by now is a sort of solitary burgher, unwilling to leave; and Friday. . .no one really knows about Friday, since his tongue has been cut out and he cannot tell anyone anything. Since South African Coetzee has used allegorical political material before, it's allowable to see Friday's cut-out tongue as social emblem for black South Africans; but then, when Susan, Crusoe, and Friday actually are rescued from the island (Crusoe dies mid-journey but Barton and Friday return to England), this impression lessens. What increases is the unstable relation between muse and creator—Susan who was there and Defoe who wasn't, yet who must imaginatively re-create what Susan may also not have known as well as what she did. Sadly, Coetzee muddies this elegantly simple template for art vs. experience by a late professorial brief (delivered by Foe) for writing-qua-itself—a bit of Gallic fashionableness that has the effect of all but shattering the fragile dramatic spell drawn up till then. Often piquant—but also some very, very thin reeds on which to build.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1986

ISBN: 014009623X

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1986

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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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