This is an immensely accomplished, steady-handed achievement, Victorian in its solidity, quietly enthralling in its...


The evolution of an upper-class Bengali family in the late 1960s reflects India’s political turbulence in this confidently expansive second novel from Mukherjee (A Life Apart, 2010), which has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Like a rolling stone, Mukherjee’s nonostentatious epic accrues its weight and mass gradually; it's a three-generational family saga that embraces tensions both micro- and macro-cosmic. The majestic Ghosh family mansion in Calcutta reflects the nation’s entrenched economic hierarchy, with the wealthy patriarch, Prafullanath, and his wife, Charubala, on the top floor and the servant classes and spurned family members at the bottom. Prafullanath, once an entrepreneurial genius who built a fortune in the paper-making industry, is now a broken reed, his health ruined, his empire failing after bad investments. On the middle floors of the house live the second and third Ghosh generations, three married sons with their children and a sour spinster daughter, and below them, the disgraced widow of a bad-seed fourth son. The family’s history is intricately, nonchronologically narrated in brief episodes that point up the power struggles, petty jealousies, cruelties and sexual attractions among the individual members. Mingled with these episodes are extracts from a diary written by Prafullanath’s eldest grandson, Supratik, who has absconded to become a Communist Naxalite guerrilla among the rural poor. Supratik’s chapters offer glimpses of the extremes of poverty and corruption in Bengal and of its essential beauties too—the green velvet of the rice paddies, the monsoon rains. But political violence emerges in Supratik’s story, matched by union troubles at the Ghosh paper mills. After Supratik’s eventual return to the Calcutta household, its unraveling gains pace. Mukherjee closes with two epilogues that offer contrasting views of the consequences.

This is an immensely accomplished, steady-handed achievement, Victorian in its solidity, quietly enthralling in its insightful observation of the ties that bind.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-24790-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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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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