Odd pastiche of elegy and parody: an intelligent and at times genuinely moving story that seems afraid to take itself...

MORAL HAZARD

A sharp if somewhat aimless account of an artistic young woman who takes a job as a Wall Street speechwriter to pay for her husband’s medical bills.

Australian writer Jennings (Snake, not reviewed), New York–based, writes in the voice of Cath, a freelance writer who is by her own admission an unreconstructed 1960s leftie, committed to all the usual causes (civil rights, abortion, socialism, feminism, free love) and opposed to greed, rapacity, and hierarchies of privilege. So how did she end up on Wall Street as an executive speechwriter at Niedecker Benecke, “a firm whose ethic was borrowed in equal parts from the Marines, the CIA, and Las Vegas”? For the money, of course—the only raison d’etre you’ll ever find at Niedecker Benecke. Cath’s husband Bailey is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, and Cath needs money (lots of it) for his treatment and care. Bailey is 25 years older than Cath to begin with, and his sudden descent into senility has made him even more distant from her than the age gap alone. The job of writing glowing accounts of corporate greed has provided her with enough alienation to keep her in therapy for decades, but it has its moments: Some of Cath’s colleagues, for example, are just as out of place on Wall Street as she is. Mike, for example, was an SDS protester at Columbia in 1968, and Horace’s sexual tastes could best be described as polymorphic. Her dreadful boss Hannibal (as in Lecter) even provides some unintentional amusement now and again, but most of the office scenes are quickly upstaged by the drama of Bailey’s decline and fall—an account of real pathos that sits ill-at-ease with the sarcastic portrait of corporate venality.

Odd pastiche of elegy and parody: an intelligent and at times genuinely moving story that seems afraid to take itself seriously.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-00-714108-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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