The Brady Bunch gone bad: a rambling story, however sad its premise, in which very little actually happens.

MY SISTER JILL

Lugubrious debut about life in a large unhappy Australian family during the 1950s and ’60s.

The Wheatleys may not be the best premise on which to hang a tale. The problem boils down, basically, to Jack Wheatley, who was a POW in WWII and never got over the trauma of it. His wife Martha and six children are happiest when he’s away—and, fortunately for them, he spends most of his spare time at the pub, rarely coming home until late at night. By this time, he is invariably drunk and abusive, taking out his frustrations on whoever happens to be around. Martha has grown so accustomed to Jack’s fits of temper that she barely notices the effect they have on the children, and it’s eldest daughter Jill who tries to stand up for her brothers and sisters. Still, most of the Wheatley children—far from hating Jack—simultaneously fear and worship their father. Daughter Christine tries constantly to get him to tell her tales of the war, and even Jill feels that Jack has somehow, through his troubled past, earned the right to be a lout. As the children grow up and begin to take their first steps into the adult world, however, they’re all haunted by their unhappy childhoods and find themselves ill-at-ease in a larger world, which they fear as much as they did their own home. Jill’s brother Johnnie begins to run around with a gang, and other brother Matthew is drafted into the Australian army during Vietnam. Eventually, in a typical gesture, Jack throws the teenaged Jill out of the house for coming home late one night. For her, it’s a blessing, since it forces her to start life on her own.

The Brady Bunch gone bad: a rambling story, however sad its premise, in which very little actually happens.

Pub Date: April 8, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-31228-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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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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