A sophisticated medical drama whose pulse-pounding strength diminishes a touch too quickly.

THE HEART

Doctors and other medical experts hasten to prepare a young man’s organs for transplant and reckon with the need to be both compassionate and precise in a hurry.

Acclaimed in France upon its publication in 2014, de Kerangal’s fifth novel (and first to be translated into English) reads partly like reportage, detailing how various professionals snap to attention when human organs become available for donation. In this case, the story begins with Simon, a college student left brain dead and on life support when the van he was riding in with his surfing buddies crashed into a pole. A cast of characters enters in rapid succession, including Pierre, the head doctor of the ICU; Cordelia, a new nurse; Thomas, the staffer who assists Simon’s parents as they agonize over whether their son would want his organs donated; Marthe, the donor database manager charged with finding appropriate matches; and so on. But de Kerangal also means to explore how what looks like a fine-tuned clinical process from the outside in truth masks roiling emotional complexity. The most fully formed character in both cases is Thomas, who’s a classical music fan (fitting for his role as orchestrator) and who owns a goldfinch (“guarded like treasure”) that’s even more nakedly symbolic in a book about matters of the heart. In the first half of the book, de Kerangal’s balancing act is winning and effective, particularly as Simon’s parents must weigh reason and raw emotion while the clock is ticking. (And translator Taylor ably shifts between the book’s plainspoken and more lyrical registers.) But once the crucial decision is made midway through, the remainder of the book feels anticlimactic. Though there’s some drama in finding a recipient for the heart and performing the transplant, the chief drama is settled early.

A sophisticated medical drama whose pulse-pounding strength diminishes a touch too quickly.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-24090-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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