Another fine chapter in Auchincloss’s ongoing fictional chronicle of the American century.

HER INFINITE VARIETY

One of Auchincloss’s great themes—the decline of the ruling–class WASP—here expands to include the female strivers of the pre-feminist age.

Think of all this century’s grande dames, those smart and connected women from Pamela Harriman to Brooke Astor who refused to assume a matronly role for their well-off hubbies, and you have the real-life counterparts to Auchincloss’s heroine. This is not his first book to examine the ethics of well-bred women on the make (see The Lady of Situations, 1990). What’s new here is a surprising sexual frankness, conveying a familiar reminder that among the upper classes even adultery has its rules of behavior. Violet Longcope, the frustrated wife of a Yale professor, hopes for greater things for her daughter, Clara, a blond and beautiful Vassar grad. Pushed by her mother, herself deluded by visions of “the great world” beyond New Haven, Clara marries into the fabulously wealthy Hoyt family, ruled by her mother-in-law, who cautiously approves Clara’s desire to have a career of her own. A success at a major style magazine, Clara pauses briefly in her ascent to bear a child. While her husband fights in WWII, she gets involved stateside with a Kennedyesque politician. After her lover dies at Normandy and her husband learns of the affair, Clara gets a divorce and devotes herself full-time to her career. She plots her editorial takeover of the magazine, eventually marries the elderly tycoon who owns it, and after his death runs his foundation with the same savvy she’s displayed throughout. Auchincloss works in his familiarity with trusts and estates once again when Clara’s greedy stepson challenges her inheritance. Always the smooth operator, liberal-minded Clara survives an ill-fated affair with an oily art-dealer and eventually triumphs with an ambassadorship from JFK himself.

Another fine chapter in Auchincloss’s ongoing fictional chronicle of the American century.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2000

ISBN: 0-618-02191-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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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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