The author’s deft plotting and wry wit sustain multiple levels of intrigue, not only about how each of the subplots resolves...

SO MUCH BLUE

An artist ponders a painting he wants to keep private along with the back stories that inspired it, the secrets that continue to haunt him.

Everett (Half an Inch of Water, 2015, etc.) continues to wrestle with issues such as artistic identity and inspiration, the relation between artists and their art, the notions of what a narrator reveals and conceals, but rarely have the results been as engrossing as this. There are three separate plot strands, skillfully interwoven, each informing the others. In the present tense, protagonist Kevin Pace, the first-person narrator, is obsessed with a large, abstract painting, a work in progress that mixes various shades of blue. He eventually reveals that he's a recovering alcoholic, now a workaholic, absorbed in his painting and his memories while generally removed from his wife and children. Ten years earlier he had a passionate affair in Paris with a Frenchwoman much younger than he. Twenty years before that, he traveled with his best friend to El Salvador, then in the midst of violent revolution, to return his friend’s brother to the U.S. The brother was likely involved with drugs, almost certainly using them, perhaps smuggling and dealing them. While there, the artist saw and did things that he has never been able to confess to anyone, but when he returned, he was “distant. Different.” He was also committed to marrying the woman who noticed these differences in him, though he’d been unsure about marriage before he left. The story unfolds through short chapters that alternate among the three times and places as the reader learns more about the artist and his painting, but the artist also discovers more about himself: “Ten years earlier I had succumbed to a banal midlife crisis, but now I was falling victim to something far worse, a late-life revelation.”

The author’s deft plotting and wry wit sustain multiple levels of intrigue, not only about how each of the subplots resolves itself, but how they all fit together.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55597-782-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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