A modest work, but not slight. With a light touch, Epstein evokes the fear and exhilaration of youth—and the comforts and...


Five interrelated tales of a leftist family in Hollywood during the McCarthy years and beyond, from longtime fiction writer Epstein (Ice Fire Water, 1999, etc.).

Epstein’s father was a well-known screenwriter (he wrote the Casablanca script), and his portrait of Hollywood has an insider’s perspective. Narrator is Richard Jacobi, an aspiring painter whose father is a successful screenwriter and producer, and the stories follow an uneven timeline from the late 1940s to the near present. In “Malibu,” Richard, his brother Barton, and his recently widowed mother Lotte visit the beach house of Lotte’s dreadful French lover Rene, who tries to ingratiate himself with the boys. “Desert” moves back to describe the events following the appearance of Norman, Richard’s father, before HUAC—an episode that results in Norman’s blacklisting and may even bring on his death. The Jacobis are odd: Norman is a classic 1930s lefty; son Barton a Jewish anti-Semite who becomes increasingly deranged; Lotte a kind of southern belle lost in a harsh world of politics, art, and money; and Richard a sensitive artistic prig. Their fall is inevitable after Norman’s death, and eventually even the mansion on San Remo Drive must be sold, but in the title story Richard returns as a successful painter to buy it back and move in with his wife and two sons. There, surrounded by his dying mother, crazy brother, jealous wife, and the girl who was his first love and inspiration for his art, he discovers a new series of trauma and heartache. But the circle remains unbroken, and Richard concludes “that all art is created . . . from the images of our childhood, with its early sorrows and many joys, that we carry undamaged within.”

A modest work, but not slight. With a light touch, Epstein evokes the fear and exhilaration of youth—and the comforts and regrets of middle age.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-59051-066-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Handsel/Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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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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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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