Like Wharton’s best work, the unfinished Romney, along with Wister’s essays about Philadelphia society, remains striking for...

ROMNEY

AND OTHER NEW WORKS ABOUT PHILADELPHIA

An unfinished third novel, with three additional essays, about a contentedly corrupt belle époque Philadelphia—where the famed Wister (1860–1938) went west to cure his depression after William Dean Howells rejected his first attempts at fiction.

The result of that hegira, The Virginian, is considered America’s finest western. In his introduction, Butler (English/LaSalle) contends that Wister’s third novel, which biographers have mistakenly called Monopolis (after Wister’s name for his fictional Philadelphia), was intended to be Wister’s reply to friend Theodore Roosevelt’s objection about the xenophobic cynicism in Wister’s second novel, Lady Baltimore, an Edith Wharton/Henry James critique of southern aristocracy. Wister wrote Roosevelt that Dividends in Democracy, later titled after its hero, Romney Hythe, was to be, in Wister’s words, “a picture of Philadelphia, and its passing from the old world to the new order; the hero of no social position, married to a wife of good social position elsewhere, and turning out to be superior to his wife.” The 48,000-word fragment he produced—before abandoning it after WWI journalism, unsuccessful forays into politics, and the death of his wife sank him again into despair—begins in 1911, then flashes back to1880s Philadelphia, rooting the entanglement of early Main Line society in the greed and corruption surrounding the Pennsylvania Railroad. Alas, Romney himself, though discussed, remains unborn when the pages run out.

Like Wharton’s best work, the unfinished Romney, along with Wister’s essays about Philadelphia society, remains striking for its examination of American social pathologies that, despite changes in ethnic, cultural and technological composition, remain virulently prevalent today.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-271-02121-7

Page Count: 328

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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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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