WORLD ELSEWHERE

A first outing by Yale critic Brooks (Reading for the Plot, 1984, etc.) carries us across many years, several oceans, and countless worlds into the Arcadia of 18th-century Tahiti. In France during the last days of the ancien rÇgime, advancement in the world of politics and fashion had to be plotted as carefully as any military campaign. It helped immensely to possess a title, but that was no guarantee of success, as the young Prince Charles of Nassau-Siegen discovers to his chagrin. Noble but penniless, Charles has the good fortune to become the lover of the powerful Comtesse de Lesdiguieres, only to incur her wrath by taking as his mistress the beautiful (but plebeian) actress Mademoiselle Arnould. So much for his life at Court. Charles has to find his fortune abroad now, so he volunteers as an officer aboard the Boudeuse, which is just setting sail for an expedition to the South Seas. “While my story is of an immense voyage,” he says, “this is not a tale of the sea.” Quite right, too: It’s a tale of Tahiti and what’s to be found there. After enduring the hardships of life at sea and witnessing the brutality of the South American colonies, none of the crew is prepared for the beauty and innocence of the Polynesian isles. Arriving in 1769, they—re the first white men to set foot on Tahiti, a land of such natural abundance that agriculture is unknown and labor practically nonexistent. Even more wonderful are the Tahitian women, so finely featured and elegant that they seem scarcely human. Charles himself soon falls in love with the beautiful Ite, but his sojourn is cut short when the Boudeuse has to go back to France. He then faces the dilemma of returning to the gray land of Europe without Ite or remaining forever in an alien paradise. Engaging, well-paced, and intelligently written. The story itself is very old hat, but the spirit is there in full force. Don—t leave, Charles!

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85333-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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