Lapeyre writes with great wit and sly craft on the miseries of unfulfilled relationships.

LIFE IS SHORT AND DESIRE ENDLESS

One need look no further than the apt title to uncover the frustrations of the two main male characters.

At one point in the novel one of Nora Neville’s lovers wonders whether “she secretes an active substance when she comes in contact with men, one that singlehandedly makes them fall at her feet,” and after a brief acquaintance, the reader is persuaded that this is an accurate depiction of her singular powers. Although she’s reputed to have many lovers, Lapeyre focuses on two: Murphy Blomdale, an American businessman living in London, and Louis Blériot, a hapless Parisian even more desperately in love with the elusive and provocative Nora. Blériot is a translator, and when the novel opens he hasn’t heard from Nora for two long and anguished years, but he gets a phone call—fortuitously on Ascension Day—and they rekindle their relationship. Although Blomdale had been sharing an apartment with Nora, Blériot is more secretive and constrained, of necessity because he’s married to Sabine, a French intellectual in whom he’s lost interest since his introduction to the alluring Nora. Blériot can be either ecstatic or miserable in her company, depending on how capricious she happens to be at a given moment, while Blomdale is a bit more circumspect—but still generally miserable. Eventually Blériot and Blomdale meet—almost accidentally—in London when Blériot can’t stand his life without Nora anymore (and not so coincidentally finds his marriage falling apart) and so goes to London to seek out some of her old haunts.

Lapeyre writes with great wit and sly craft on the miseries of unfulfilled relationships.

Pub Date: June 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59051-484-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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