Charming follow-up, with the same cast of benign eccentrics, plus a few new ones.


Venetia and her children, Giles and Felix, and their very young sister, the Beauty, are back (Hens Dancing, 2001)—as befuddled as ever.

Now that boyfriend David has decamped to the farthest reaches of the Amazon to build sets for a jungle movie, Venetia, in rural England, must cope with a peculiar ménage of children, relatives, and pets. It’s not any easier than it was a few years ago, but it’s no less amusing. The Beauty is now three, given to flouncing about in tutus and putting nail polish on the bull terrier’s claws. Venetia’s dotty mother wanders in and out, occasionally pursued by her ardent suitor, the Reverend Trevor Heel. Seems like love is in the air: Venetia’s brother Desmond is marrying at last, and Venetia has unwisely agreed to host the catered affair. For it, Bass and Siren, neo-hippie neighbors, put up a filthy canvas tent left over from a rave and marked with graffiti. Minna, the snooty bride-to-be, is none too pleased. Venetia, meanwhile, has other things to worry about, enumerated on many lists all beginning with the same five items: Cake, Car, Hymns, Drink, and Glasses. She’d considered giving up alcohol until Easter, but now rejects the idea as altogether unwise. Though David tries to stay in touch, his limited communications aren’t enough for Venetia, who has mastered the art of going to pieces without anyone actually noticing. To soothe her nerves and earn some extra money, she begins to decorate jumble-sale sweaters with sequins, beads, odd buttons, and the like for a fashionista friend—and is delighted when these become must-have items for trendy young Londoners. Life goes on, messily as usual. An expedition to the seashore goes instantly awry, making Venetia wonder how she gets herself into one absurd predicament after another. Can she soldier on till David’s eventual return?

Charming follow-up, with the same cast of benign eccentrics, plus a few new ones.

Pub Date: May 14, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-50387-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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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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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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