Early experimentation by a gifted German voice.

THE BOXER

Recent translation of a 1976 semi-fantastic novel by the late Becker (Jakob the Liar, 1996, etc.), a Polish-born Holocaust survivor who opted to stay in Germany after WWII.

Aron Blank “materializes” out of postwar Germany, having spent the war in a concentration camp. The war has effectively erased him. His internment has made a “blank” of him quite literally: he needs a new identity card even to exist. It’s not long before he’s set up with an apartment and a lover, Paula, who works for Rescue, an organization that reunites families displaced by the war. In short order, Rescue helps Aron locate his son, Mark, in Bavaria. Aron barely remembers the boy, and vice versa, and at the orphanage, where more than 200 children are housed Aron realizes that the director could simply decide which boy is his. Still, they find Mark, the awkwardness of the reunion passes, and the boy comes to live with Aron, and for a time it looks as if the war will have a kind of happy ending. Then Rescue finds Walter, Paula’s old beau. Aron sinks into despair as she leaves. He no longer works in the black market but turns to doing translation for Russian authorities, and soon he has a new love, Irma. As Mark grows up, he starts to show an interest in boxing—indeed, Aron was something of a boxer before the war. Time begins to pass quickly: Aron inherits $50,000 from a friend who dies in Baltimore; has a heart attack; divorces Irma; retires; and is left again with Mark as his only connection to the outside world. More interesting than the actual story is Becker’s narrative strategy: throughout, Aron is being interviewed by the novel’s journalist narrator; their conversations are a kind of continuous interruption reminding us that the story is as much about a writer’s relationship with his material as it is about Aron’s travails.

Early experimentation by a gifted German voice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-55970-615-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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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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