The moving close can't redeem this novel; most readers will have given up long before the end.

CHARLESTON

A woman’s dilemma—whether to forgo an international academic career for romance in her native Charleston—is the subject of Thornton’s debut.

Charleston, South Carolina, circa 1990, is an insular world where a clique of founding families cherishes their heritage, clinging to antebellum ways while snubbing the tourists and newcomers who are fueling the city’s economic resurgence. It's a world with which Thornton is, clearly, intimately familiar, and as a portrait of a city mired in the past, it works. What works less well is the story she sets against this headily atmospheric backdrop. Eliza, who, like the author, is an academic and a Charleston insider, attempted to escape her roots by moving to New York and then London to study art history. She has a liaison with Jamie, an upper-crust Englishman, but she has unresolved feelings for her childhood sweetheart, Henry, whom she left when he was unfaithful. His alcohol-fueled fling with an unbalanced Southern belle, Issie, resulted in an unplanned pregnancy and a hasty marriage and divorce. Devoid of motherly feeling, Issie has let Henry raise their son, Lawton, now 9, alone. On a visit home after a 10-year absence, Eliza is ineluctably drawn back to Henry. The only problem, besides a complete lack of narrative drive, is the absence of believable chemistry between Henry and Eliza. The couple’s rapprochement is eked out in long scenes of walking and driving, calling on friends, trips to the beach and to tennis matches, etc., which unspool with excruciating slowness almost in real time. Not until Page 200 does trouble surface in the form of a newly maternal Issie, who finally triggers some dramatic tension. It's telling that a subplot involving Eliza’s quest to authenticate a painting for an impoverished Charleston widow is more engrossing than the love story.

The moving close can't redeem this novel; most readers will have given up long before the end.

Pub Date: July 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-233252-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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