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ELSINORE CANYON

A debut novel that offers a modern, young-adult retelling of Hamlet with a female stand-in for Shakespeare’s title character.

Horst von Wittenberg may be the only trustworthy friend and confidant Dana Hamlet has left as the story kicks off, but she still means more to him than he does to her. Unrequited love burns in Horst, especially as Dana drifts away from him after her mother’s untimely death and her father’s unseemly remarriage. The distance closes when they encounter her mother’s ghost, but this meeting throws Dana into madness and revenge, with consequences as dire as those in Shakespeare’s tragedy. Although the novel has a female Hamlet and other gender-swapping, the story and characters mirror the source material almost exactly, occasionally to the point of being too obvious: “The place always made me think of a medieval castle.” There are a few intriguing differences, but the strength of this sort of adaptation lies in showing how powerful and relevant the original story remains, a challenge the novel tackles wonderfully. The modernization works nearly seamlessly, transposing the politics of medieval Denmark to a Southern California corporate and Catholic school culture. What’s more, the embellishments to the characters make them truly come alive. Horst’s wheelchair makes him as much of an outsider as Horatio ever was, and Phil, Dana’s boyfriend, is a surfer, his connection to the water acting as a grim reminder of Ophelia’s story in Shakespeare’s verse. Horatio in the play is a largely silent observer, constantly present but seldom acting, and while Horst does much the same, his rich inner monologue and love for Dana are among the most engaging aspects of the book. Conversely, many of the sections without Horst are low points, becoming disjointed and awkward without his grounding voice. The novel also occasionally overreaches in using the original text. Most of the references are clever, but some borrow too heavily from Hamlet’s soliloquies and lose their sense of potency: “Words, words, words. She said them—out loud, even—but they did not reach loving ears.” But these failings are few, and while the writing may not be Shakespearean, it’s more dynamic than that of most contemporary young-adult literature while still being thoroughly entertaining and emotional. An imperfect YA adaptation of a classic but a striking one nonetheless.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-1495901775

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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