Probably the most enjoyable comic novel since Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. A certifiable hoot.


If you don’t laugh yourself sick over this gloriously absurd new novel from the author of 1994’s Louisiana Power & Light (to which it’s a partial sequel), you’re probably just plain unentertainable.

It’s Dufresne’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set in the Louisiana swamp country, where the inhabitants of Shiver-de-Freeze (a place-name mangled from the original French) are getting themselves ready for the wedding of Ariane Thevenot and Grisham Loudermilk. Things get complicated right away, because devilishly handsome Grisham can’t deny himself one more fling (if not several) with former girlfriend Miranda Ferry (who works as a “chicken-sexer”: don’t ask), and Ariane can’t resist the adoration of impulsive Adlai Birdsong. Meanwhile, good-looking widow Earlene Fontana considers the attentions of morose Varden Roebuck, occasionally thinking to fret about her precocious 11-year-old Boudou, who can’t decide whether to deliver up his superhuman memory for scrutiny at a nearby scientific institute, or his virginity to the female “conjoined” twins known as “Tous-les-Deux,” who have eyes (and other shared body parts) for him. These are all basically likable folks: not just the aforementioned, but even hypocritical souls like sex-obsessed Father Pat and born-again Durwood Tulliver and hellfire-and-damnation preacher Alvin Lee Loudermilk, as well as miscellaneous gossips and rednecks and snake-handlers. Grisham and Ariane do swap vows, and their ceremonials include the performance of a hilariously deranged playlet, Evangeline, as Performed by the Mechanics of Shiver-de-freeze (oh, and there’s a werewolf in it). And when Dufresne wraps everything up, the metafictionist in him (who’s been chatting with the reader at odd intervals throughout the book) takes several peeks at his characters’ futures, in a garrulous Epilogue and a mock-scholarly Appendix. You’ll be pleased to hear that Boudou’s formidable brains get put to good use.

Probably the most enjoyable comic novel since Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. A certifiable hoot.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-393-02020-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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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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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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