Art conquers all: Family mysteries are solved, and sassy, determined women triumph.

THIRD GIRL FROM THE LEFT

A compelling saga of love, film and family secrets.

In her third venture, Southgate (The Fall of Rome, 2001) braids a multigenerational tale of the loves and ambitions of mothers and daughters. In the mid-1950s, Mildred is a middle-class black housewife in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with an open love of movies and a secret love of the town’s film projectionist. Film provides fascination and solace for Mildred, who slips away from a haunted family past to meet her lover in the darkened Dreamland Theater. In the ’70s, Mildred’s daughter Angela also falls for film, leaving her seemingly stable future in Tulsa for life as an actress in Los Angeles. Yet after running headlong at her career, she finds herself typecast in the nudie bits of blaxploitation films, and her relationship with Mildred grows strained. After an unplanned pregnancy, Angela leaves the limited world of bit-part acting to raise her daughter Tamara. In the ’80s, Tamara grows up watching her mother on film. Movies, the vestiges of Angela’s former life, help kindle Tamara’s interest in film, but as her interest in serious filmmaking grows, Tamara becomes ashamed of her mother. She sets out for New York, where she enrolls in a directing program, and cuts herself off from Angela. Yet when illness calls Angela and Tamara back to Tulsa for the first time since Angela’s pregnancy, Tamara takes her camera and uncovers a past she didn’t even know she was missing. Suddenly the private desires, hidden secrets and life struggles of mothers and daughters come into sharp and rich focus. Like the documentary film that Tamara eventually makes, Southgate’s record cuts and jumps back between the three plotlines, which the author deftly weaves into a richly textured whole.

Art conquers all: Family mysteries are solved, and sassy, determined women triumph.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-47023-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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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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