No less insightful and stylish than Huston’s previous fiction, but no matter how you stuff ’em, the lives of academics are...


The third from Calgary-born, now Paris-based Huston (Slow Emergencies, 2001, etc.) concerns an alcoholic, neurotic, dying, famous Irish poet who invites a circle of friends from the New England college he teaches at to a last Thanksgiving dinner.

An audacious conceit distinguishes Huston’s tale from standard academic fare: specifically, the voice of God periodically interrupts the evening’s story to describe the future deaths of the assembled guests. Even so, only Sean, the host, has any inkling of his end, the doctor having recently told him of his inoperable cancer, but that doesn’t mean he has any intention of changing his tune. Smoking and drinking himself into oblivion throughout the evening, he can still enjoy the success of his plan to get everyone drunk as quickly as possible so that essential truths can be shared. The company includes two of Sean’s former lovers, one a secretary at the college, the other a philosophy professor (her philosophy-professor husband is also a guest); a black poet going through a bitter divorce; Sean’s lawyer and his contentiously feminist wife; Sean’s nearly deaf baker; a frustrated artist from Ukraine and his doting wife; a novelist of a literary stature equal to Sean’s, with his new wife and baby boy. But even with Sean deftly steering the conversation as he staggers from chair to chair, some secrets remain uncovered. The baker, in truth a Russian Jew who fled pogroms in Odessa to become a professor in apartheid-riven South Africa, remains a baker. And the novelist’s young wife, sneaking upstairs to snort cocaine on the pretense of checking on the baby, has a lurid past that the others—including hubby—couldn’t begin to imagine.

No less insightful and stylish than Huston’s previous fiction, but no matter how you stuff ’em, the lives of academics are about as exciting as turkey on a platter.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2001

ISBN: 1-58642-028-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet