BRING US THE OLD PEOPLE

A first novel by a New York—based poet and story writer that doesn—t leave the reader waiting for more. Stark’s a grimly derivative tale of the Holocaust is recounted in the first person by Maime, a nonagenarian Polish Jewish woman who survived the war by hiding in a series of farms owned by sympathetic Gentiles. At the outset, Maime is living in a residence for the elderly, bitterly resentful of her nephew’s apparent largesse, and eager to tell of her life in Poland before and during the war (although it’s unclear to whom she’s speaking). Her marriage at 16 to Saul is a mistake; she’s too young, and he turns out to be sterile. There is tension between her and her mother-in-law, and she misses her adored parents. When the Nazis come, everything falls apart around her: she’s left with little more than a cache of American dollars, the will to survive, and a terrible secret. This secret, which might have served as the pivot of the entire narrative, is telegraphed by the book’s title, again in its first chapter, and is mentioned throughout. Worse still, it is first revealed almost in passing, tossed off in the context of a conversation between Maime and her sister, who spent the war years in New York. By the time the events in question are laboriously replayed, the reader has long since ceased to care. There is virtually nothing original here: the situations, the characters, the historical events, all have been used dozens of times before to greater effect. Stark’s slender volume rambles like the recollections, indeed, of an elderly person; the diction is a grotesque parody of a Polish Jew’s broken English. One hesitates to dismiss a book as sincerely meant as this one, but as literature it’s a void.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-56689-074-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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