ARMAGEDDON

With his customary command of fact, and predilection for the times and places that try man's metal, Leon Uris here turns to the subject and story of postwar Berlin in the early stages of occupation. His story is in essence a commemoration of the patriotism of heroes who held the line in a thankless, demanding ordeal as they fought the first Cold War battles against the Communists for the West's foothold in Berlin. Uris starts his book as the war is ending; his Irish American hero Sean O'Sullivan is an officer under General Andrew Jackson Hansen and is preparing for the occupation of Germany, first in England, then on a pilot project in Rombaden. Then comes the real thing, the major task: Berlin. With his two brothers killed by the Germans, Sean battles a great hate which is almost eradicated by his love for Ernestine Falkenstein, the niece of the anti-Nazi German patriot who has returned from a concentration camp to lead his people under the four power occupation as Oberburgermeister of Berlin. But in the end Sean must walk away. The canvas is covered with numerous figures: the Amis who renounce plush, well paying jobs at home to fight the good fight; the Russians of varied stripe from the fanatic Azov to the human Igor Karlovy who sees his German mistress to safety in West Berlin but will not follow for love of his country, to Heinrich Hirsch, who defects out of conscience; the Germans, ranged from resurgent Nazis and Germans broken to Communism to the patriot Falkenstein. Uris carries his story through the Blockade and airlift to 1949, its success and the premise of continued occupation by the West. It is in a sense a story without a definite end, and as Sean fades out, so too will the novel which is strong on background and moments of contact but has little cumulative power. This will attract Uris' established audience but not add to it. A Literary Guild selection.

Pub Date: June 15, 1964

ISBN: 0552083895

Page Count: 602

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1964

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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