A bit too theme-driven and intermittently static, but Krauss is a highly intelligent writer. It’ll be interesting to see...

MAN WALKS INTO A ROOM

There are some lovely moments (and echoes of early Saul Bellow) in this interestingly conceived first novel, but its somewhat attenuated account of an amnesiac’s quest for his missing years trails off into improbability and inconclusiveness.

The story begins in a desert near Las Vegas where Columbia University English professor (and California native) Samson Greene is found wandering, bereft of memory or purpose. He’s returned home to his frantic wife Anna, and undergoes successful surgery for the removal of a benign brain tumor—but thereafter cannot remember his life beyond the age of 12. For example, he no longer knows Anna, and they gradually drift apart. While in therapy he learns of an experimental medical procedure promising to assist memory, and travels west again, to become a volunteer patient. Hesitant relationships—with the research scientist who proposes to “implant” in his brain the memories of another man, as well as with his chosen “Input” (i.e., memory “donor”), an amusingly Babbitt-like businessman, among others more briefly encountered—are prelude to a deeply ironic “awakening” as the burden of what Samson now “remembers” propels him on yet another quest: for the grave of his mother, whose recent death lies hidden among the scattered fragments of his recent years. Krauss tells her strange story—a knotty combination of psychological novel and cautionary science-fiction tale—with considerable finesse, crafting graceful compound-complex sentences charged with understated emotion and given subtle twists of meaning by frequent qualifications and reversals. Samson’s captivity and confusion are quite movingly rendered, especially during the lengthy dénouement, which introduces the affecting figure of “Sammy’s” senile great-uncle Max, himself a “prisoner” (in a nursing home), likewise robbed of his memory. Alas, following this vivid sequence, Krauss seems uncertain how to end her story.

A bit too theme-driven and intermittently static, but Krauss is a highly intelligent writer. It’ll be interesting to see what she turns to next.

Pub Date: May 21, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-50399-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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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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