Moving along the romancer’s boundary between anger and nostalgia, Fiona’s story is, overall, well crafted and elegant,...


A somewhat heavy-handed second from Irish-American McBride (The Nature of Water and Air, 2001).

When Fiona O’Faolain moved from rural Ireland to Santa Fe, New Mexico, it wasn’t so much to get ahead in the world as to find out who she was. An illegitimate child, Fiona was fathered by a well-known photographer who had come to the American Southwest years before and made his reputation there. Although he helped support Fiona and her mother, Jane, while Fiona was a girl, he never married Jane—thus condemning her to the status of eccentric outsider in the rural village where she and Fiona lived. A gifted seamstress and lacemaker, Jane made a living by creating wedding dresses, and each masterwork only reinforced her disappointment at never becoming Ronan’s bride—to such an extent that she eventually married the dull Ned McGinty, who had been deeply in love with Jane for years. When Ronan dies and leaves part of his estate to Fiona, she moves to Santa Fe to open a dress shop of her own. There, she meets Carlos Aragon, a Spanish antiquities dealer who is restoring a 15th-century statue that had been carved to commemorate a ship that sank off the coast of Ireland with one of his ancestors aboard. According to family legend, Carlos’s ancestor had been rescued by a trio of women and literally nursed back to health on a remote island known as the Land of Women. As Carlos delves deeper into the mysteries of the statue and the doomed ship, Fiona’s thoughts turn back to her native land—and to Michael, her first love.

Moving along the romancer’s boundary between anger and nostalgia, Fiona’s story is, overall, well crafted and elegant, though it becomes a bit overdone and precious in the end.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-2888-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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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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