At once bleak and dishonest: repeatedly affirming traditional family life while leaving readers with the sense that slow...

BEING MRS. ALCOTT

A blue-blood Cape Cod matron takes stock of her blameless life.

Grace Alcott has always kept strictly to the beaten path. Her husband is a prig, but faithful and a good provider. He is also the only man she has ever kissed. She has devoted her life exclusively to raising his children, a life so serene that the story skips from Grace’s early 20s to her late 50s without missing a single event of importance. Then the middle-aged grandmother’s safe world begins to fall apart. Her husband loses his wealth through an ill-considered business scheme. Her alcoholic brother commits suicide after confessing to an adulterous affair with Grace’s best friend. The friend, Prissy, vanishes without explanation just as Grace is diagnosed with breast cancer. Meanwhile, her two sons are shallow, selfish creatures for whom she feels a spirited dislike. The elder is a shiftless hippie who demands to be supported by his parents so that he can tend his three children while his sluttish wife pursues her career as a healer. The younger is a realtor who sees his parents only as an impediment to his inheritance. Under these circumstances, it is no surprise that Grace keeps her cancer secret and eschews treatment. At the 11th hour, the tale draws back from this grim conclusion, but its tardy affirmation of Grace’s cardboard marriage fails to convince. Long conversations about the characters’ reawakening offer a poor substitute for actual reawakening. Veteran mystery author Geary (Regrets Only, 2004, etc.) boasts a fluid prose style, and her rendering of upper-class foibles is charming. Her neat satirical observations, however, are wasted on a baggy plot and timid resolution.

At once bleak and dishonest: repeatedly affirming traditional family life while leaving readers with the sense that slow death is preferable.

Pub Date: July 18, 2005

ISBN: 0-446-53220-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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