ABSOLUTION

The English-language debut of an Icelandic writer now living in New York: a novel that perceptively probes the depths of two ÇmigrÇ Icelanders' self-deceptions. When a nameless young Icelander, working in New York, is asked by his boss to translate papers found in a locked vault of the recently deceased Peter Peterson, he acknowledges that ``sometimes...Peterson's words might just as easily have flowed from my own pen.'' Indeed, both men settled permanently in the US, both allude to unhappy love affairs, and both men have—or had- -obsessive tendencies. But it is the shared failures in love that shape the story: failures at the heart of both lives, confusing memory and permanently wounding psyches. In his part of the story, moving back and forth from the past to the present, Peter, now a wealthy old man estranged from his family and cared for by a young woman whom he dreams of seducing but is too frail to do so, recalls a seminal comment of his father's. The change that his father observed in him after his year in Denmark explains, Peter thinks, his subsequent unsavory reputation as a businessman and parent. He recalls his tranquil middle-class childhood in Iceland: how in high school he fell in love with a fellow student, whom he followed to Denmark, obsessively pursuing her even though she saw other men; and how the Nazi invasion of Denmark precipitated the events that changed him forever. When the girl turned him down, preferring Jon, the handsome Resistance leader, Peter committed what he thought was a terrible crime, and fled Denmark. But there is a tape, the translator learns, made a few months before Peter's death, that suggests how strong and pervasive ``deception, pure and simple'' may have been after all. Beautifully crafted, and, even though both the pace and the conceit pall a little, a welcome new voice.

Pub Date: March 14, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-42891-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994

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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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