BRIAR ROSE

A tour de force that rings an astonishing series of changes on the familiar fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. The prolific Coover (John's Wife, p. 155, etc.) has always been fascinated with the sheer playful possibilities of fiction, and with the many kinds of intentions that a seemingly straightforward narrative conceals. In this brief, dense work, he explores—in the contrasting voices of Sleeping Beauty and her resolute Prince as he fights his way to her bedchamber to awaken her from a deathly enchanted sleep—a remarkable number of interpretative possibilities lying just below the surface of the tale. The series of brief meditations by the two that compose the book suggest at various times that the story is really about the powers of the imagination (the two lovers-to-be have distinct ideas about what each represents to the other), about the masculine need to create a lovely, will-less female object of beauty, about the need of women to resist (by sleep, if nothing else) the kinds of male yearnings projected onto them, about the nature of desire itself (``You are that flame,'' Beauty is told, ``flickering like a burning fever in the hearts of men, consuming them with desire, bewitching them with your radiant and mysterious allure''), or about the anarchic power of the storytelling drive (``The awful powers of enchantment'') to take over a tale, to reassemble itself in a ``dangerous and inviolate'' form in defiance of an author's conscious intentions. The tale is also an amusing parody of literary scholarship, of its willingness to force polemical meanings onto a work of the imagination. All of this is rendered in a precise, vigorous, droll prose. There's no doubt that Coover can do almost anything he wants. But his reluctance to finally settle for any culminating metaphor makes this unique work seem more of a collection of masterful, cerebral turns than a living, persuasive tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8021-1591-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1996

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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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