These lives, gently told, have currents within them as wide and deep as an ocean’s—and no one can miss their primal force.

IN THE NAME OF SALOME

In her restless and vibrant fourth novel, Alvarez (Yo!, 1997, etc.) turns to the historical figures of Salomé Ureña, former national poet of the Dominican Republic, and her daughter, Camila, a professor in the US, chronicling each woman’s lifelong struggle to define la patria and her obligation to it.

Starting near the end of Camila's life and the beginning of Salomé's, alternating chapters move through time in opposite directions to form a rich narrative tapestry. From an early age, poetry and politics are Salomé's crucible, and in the 1870s she becomes the voice of a people longing for independence from dictators and colonizers. A younger and especially ardent admirer wins her heart, but marriage to Pancho takes Salomé from her muse, as their children and a commitment to establishing a liberal school for girls consume her while the political situation goes from bad to worse. When Pancho begins a second family in Paris, where he’s gone to obtain advanced medical training, the strain on Salomé takes a serious toll on her health, and she contracts tuberculosis. Camila, who lost her mother when she was three, is first viewed retiring from Vassar in 1960 in order to go help the revolution in Cuba, where she grew up with her stepfamily. Camila’s struggle has been different: after confronting a crisis in her sexual identity and facing down American xenophobia as a college student during WWI, she must come to terms with Salomé's complex legacy of love and liberation while pursuing an academic career. But in the end Camila finds her own place and her own homeland, where she can carry on her mother's work.

These lives, gently told, have currents within them as wide and deep as an ocean’s—and no one can miss their primal force.

Pub Date: June 9, 2000

ISBN: 1-56512-276-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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