By the time the novel’s final few pages attempt to tie these various strands together, the writer’s ambition has exceeded...

NOWHERE PEOPLE

Clueless student radicals, indigenous Brazilian Indians and the Internet find an uneasy mix within a novel that seems to serve as a political allegory.

During the first third of the novel, the protagonist seems to be a young law student and activist named Paulo, who shares some background with the author as well as his first name. Then he disappears from the bulk of the novel, and from Brazil, except for occasional interruptions from his new place in England, before he returns home in the final pages. He operates out of a “contagious inertia, a blind freedom that needed to be exercised urgently.” As for the political commitment of Paulo and his fellow club-hopping hipsters, it finds expression in an adage they hear at a rally: “To bring about a revolution in the world we have to bring about a revolution in ourselves. It sounds naïve, I know.” Propelling the plot is a chance encounter between the increasingly disillusioned Paulo, who considers abandoning both his studies and his politics, and a young Indian girl with whom he develops an age-inappropriate relationship, which results in her pregnancy and his disappearance. “I’m not even sure how to describe a cretin who gets a fifteen-year-old Indian girl pregnant then vanishes into thin air,” says one of the multiple narrators. The boy who results from that pregnancy—offering a thematic embodiment of the complex relationship between upper-middle-class politics and impoverished, indigenous culture—dominates the novel’s second half, emerging as an unlikely Internet performance artist and viral sensation.

By the time the novel’s final few pages attempt to tie these various strands together, the writer’s ambition has exceeded his accomplishment.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 9781908276384

Page Count: 336

Publisher: & Other Stories

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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