A bit intellectual and rarefied, much like Rudolf’s work is reputed to be.

THE EXECUTOR

A COMEDY OF LETTERS

Well, a comedy of sorts—but more a tragicomedy of distrust and good intentions gone woefully wrong.

Rudolf, the main character, does not even appear in the novel, for he has recently committed suicide in Turin, where he had been a prominent professor at the university. His best friend, the narrator, is appointed literary executor. Rudolf had been an intellectual and a writer, and his truculent and unmannerly personality emerges as the narrator comes into contact with three women in Rudolf’s life. His wife Elsa, now lying in a coma as she dies of cancer, was a formidable intellectual in her own right (though Rudolf confessed that he found her stuff “unreadable”). We also meet Eva, something of a mystery woman, whose large cache of letters the narrator discovers among the 64 cartons of voluminous papers Rudolf left behind. Finally, there’s the cold and intimidating Marta, Rudolf’s colleague at the University of Turin and (perhaps) his lover. The narrator is charged with sorting through and making sense of Rudolf’s personal and literary legacy. What is particularly urgent is the need to discover whether Rudolf’s reputed last work, The Testament, a book that was supposed to revolutionize the novel as a mode of writing, was merely a figment of his febrile imagination. Amidst the sorting process the narrator uncovers sordid information he feels might besmirch the reputation of the redoubtable Rudolf, papers he wants either to suppress or destroy. Along the way he encounters contradictions—Rudolf’s hidden rooftop menagerie, for example, where Rudolf was able to indulge his lavish love of animals, stands in contradiction to his prickly relationships with human beings. By the time the narrator gets to the 64th carton, he discovers that he has unwittingly destroyed papers that would have upheld Rudolf’s formidable artistic reputation.

A bit intellectual and rarefied, much like Rudolf’s work is reputed to be.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-15-101268-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2007

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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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