A fine companion to Möring’s longer novels, and probably his most accomplished yet.


A family borne aloft, then gradually destroyed by the experience (and the enigma) of flight is portrayed with compassionate insight in this terse, if intermittently obscure, novella by the Dutch author of The Great Longing (1995) and In Babylon (2000).

We first meet its unnamed narrator when he’s a 12-year-old boy growing up in the 1960s in the Netherlands, living with “a father who wasn’t very interested in the world and a slightly absent mother.” The latter, Julia, is a former mayor’s daughter who had quit her nursing job to care for the latter, Philip Ziegler, a WWII bomber pilot who had left his family behind while spending the war years in England, then been injured after the armistice, while working as a crop sprayer. These details and others emerge from several scenes that describe (in impressive specific detail) the family’s attempt to make ends meet by building model airplanes for their “doll doctor” (i.e., toyshop proprietor) landlord. As Philip’s depression and inertia deepen, and Julia grows more remote and emotionally eccentric, the narrator is tutored, in effect, by Philip’s former military comrade Humbert Coe, an ebullient gourmand and sophisticate who encourages the boy’s (rather odd) passion for cookery. The major concerns here don’t seem to fit together until a rain-soaked night during which relationships are bluntly clarified, and a brief epilogue set nearly 30 years later, when the narrator, himself now a “doll doctor,” tells a group of children a pointed “fairy tale” about a sculptor whose imperious king demands a stature of the world’s most beautiful woman. Möring’s compact fable of innocence beguiled, betrayed, and eventually matured into sobered acceptance has something of the abrupt elliptical tensile strength of fiction like Ford’s The Good Soldier and L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between, and its dense metaphoric weave makes it close kin as well to Michel Tournier’s subtle symbolic fictions.

A fine companion to Möring’s longer novels, and probably his most accomplished yet.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-621240-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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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