BLACK SNOW

A bleak tale of contemporary urban alienation—in a first US appearance for young Chinese writer Liu Heng. In a Beijing neighborhood where grimy, ill-built apartments share noisome backyard outhouses and where the local cops keep tabs on everyone, Liu Huiquan, angry and grieving for his dead adoptive mother, returns home to his empty apartment after three years in a labor camp. Abandoned in a ditch as a baby, Liu went to jail because he'd been involved in a fight. A taciturn young man, known for his loyalty and ferocity, and irrevocably affected by the circumstances of his birth, he now has few hopes for his future. His beloved adoptive mother died while he was in prison; he's shy with girls; and his best friend is serving a life sentence for murder. In the year that follows, Liu tries to make a new life for himself. He becomes a street vendor selling cheap clothes, but his loneliness and shyness draw him to a nightclub, where he falls in love with a singer, Zhao Yaqui, a commonplace woman of average beauty and talent. But the infatuated Liu follows her home each night, attends all her performances, and starts drinking. Finally, he realizes that Zhao Yaqui is quite indifferent to him, but he still can't forget her. A friend escapes from prison, and Liu, instead of reporting him to the police, hides him for a few days. The downward spiral into despair and degradation continues as he learns that a business contact of his has seduced Zhao Yaqui. Liu revisits the nightclub, where he drinks too much, and on a snowy night returning home is fatally stabbed by muggers—an ending clearly foreshadowed, and probably necessary for this relentlessly somber account of life in present-day China. Prose that tautly evokes the grim mood and setting, though Liu himself is more an idea than a reality. Still, a writer to watch.

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-87113-530-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1993

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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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