Another sharply observed book by a very funny writer, though this time there’s more charm than depth.


Laird (Utterly Monkey, 2006, and the husband of novelist Zadie Smith) returns with a comedy of manners concerning romance in the transcontinental art world.

A native of Northern Ireland who later lived in London and now teaches in New York, Laird has positioned himself perfectly with this book. The fast-paced setup quickly engages the reader: A 35-year-old teacher and sometimes art blogger named David Pinner learns of a London exhibition by his former teacher, an American artist named Ruth Marks. David remembers Ruth as having a profound effect on his life, and he was apparently more than a little smitten with her, but an age gap of 13 years seemed insurmountable then. David remains undaunted when Ruth has no memory of him, and the two renew (or start) a friendship that David plainly hopes will blossom into something more. Yet his wishes go awry once Ruth meets David’s 23-year-old flat mate, James Glover, a bartender who is considerably less cultured but much better looking. Perhaps because she inhabits a world of aesthetics, the thrice-married Ruth falls hard for this innocent less than half her age, though some crucial character revelations make it hard for them to consummate their relationship. Though James is the titular character, the novel is more about David—how he seethes and schemes, revealing so much of his character in his attempts to subvert the relationship between the two people to whom he apparently feels closest. There’s a romantic triangle, though Ruth barely acknowledges David’s interest as more than friendship (making him feel “like a eunuch,”) while James intuits that David might be more jealous of Ruth’s claim on James than vice versa. As David begins an online flirtation and continues to write supercilious, self-serving blog entries for the deliciously named Damp Review, the reader must discover whether Ruth or David is James Glover’s Mistake.

Another sharply observed book by a very funny writer, though this time there’s more charm than depth.

Pub Date: July 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02097-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2009

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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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