Though short, the novel is not a breezy read; it's a quiet, character-driven musing on the value of life and death that...

BATHING THE LION

Five people share a miraculously detailed and disturbing dream in Carroll's latest speculative fiction (The Woman Who Married a Cloud, 2012, etc.). Their experience sparks a need to understand their roles in a cosmic drama played out over eons.

A mundane Vermont town doesn’t seem like the place to discover the underlying mechanisms of the universe, but these five seemingly ordinary citizens begin to see impossible things: visions of the past, hoped-for children becoming real, even a red elephant bearing a map on its hide. Soon, they remember their common past as “mechanics”: nonhuman beings with a gift for fixing what Chaos breaks. But why are these retired mechanics being called back? What dire event has spurred an unprecedented gathering of minds? Our heroes (though some are decidedly nonheroic) must navigate a landscape of dream and metaphor to find out, all the while balancing their human impulses against their mystic calling. The scope of Carroll’s ideas outpaces the clarity of his writing, which features abrupt perspective shifts and some dizzying moves through multiple timelines. While the purported theme is nothing less than the fate of the universe, the action is all internal. Don’t expect a grand battle or glorious revelation. Here, characters talk and argue their fumbling ways to truth, and those who follow the strange logic of the meandering plot, picking up clues like breadcrumbs, fare best. 

Though short, the novel is not a breezy read; it's a quiet, character-driven musing on the value of life and death that lovers of magical realism should embrace but that readers wishing for a more cohesive story will find frustrating.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-04826-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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