This emotional high-wire act should have readers racing to the end.

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THE DRAGONFLY

A novel plunges a newly acquainted grandfather and granddaughter into adventures on the French canals.

Colin Aylesford of Bath, England, hasn’t seen his son, Michael, in almost 10 years. One day, he receives a letter from his boy stating that Charlotte, his wife, has died in an accident. Delphine, Michael and Charlotte’s 9-year-old daughter, is “coping as well as possible.” More than a month later, Colin learns from the police that Michael has been arrested in France in connection with his wife’s lethal trip down a flight of stairs. He’s also confessed to pushing her. Colin takes the small fishing boat he’s built—the Dragonfly—south, into the French canals. By special arrangement with Charlotte’s mother, Delphine joins him for the summer. The coupling proves exceptionally awkward, because Colin himself is a widower and has lived for years as a bachelor. Delphine is a precocious young lady who requires entertainment and careful attention paid to Amandine, her sock monkey. In prison, meanwhile, Michael reflects on a life spent without his own father after a deep estrangement sundered his parents decades ago. Later on the canals, Colin and Delphine meet Tyler, an American woman traveling alone who soon becomes instrumental in the relationship between Colin and his granddaughter. In this novel of quietly revealed passions, Dunn (Rebecca’s Children, 2016, etc.) gives audiences an experience that resists categorization. It reads like a special sort of coming-of-age tale for parents with either an empty nest or damaged families, in that Colin feels “stranded on the shore of his son’s life.” The pain of not raising his son returns with Delphine, who shares with Michael “the set of her jaw...her wide mouth, and her slightly crooked teeth.” While a good deal of levity is present, especially when Delphine utters her starchy catchphrase, “It is not possible,” Dunn’s story features dense layers of melancholy (Colin “felt sadness like a sharp blade drawn along the length of him”). Sunlight reaches the canals, but not before a gasp-inducing finale.

This emotional high-wire act should have readers racing to the end.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-911501-03-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Aurora Metro Press

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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