THE ENTHUSIASMS OF ROBERTSON DAVIES

The slightly revised (and first American) edition of the 1979 Canadian collection of journalistic essays, reviews, columns, and character profiles from the esteemed novelist (The Lyre of Orpheus, 1988, etc.). Readers of Davies' steady stream of novels may be surprised at the sheer volume of journalistic activity here, a large chunk of it predating his international reputation. Grant presents the ink-in-the-veins side of Davies, drawing on pieces the author wrote during his lengthy tenure as an Ontario newspaper editor, as well as his later work in journals as far flung as The Washington Post and TV Guide. Although arranged under three main sections—"Characters," "Books," "Robertson Davies"—the collection is overwhelmingly dominated by book reviews. Nevertheless, Davies is to an extent able to extend the normal life span of a review by extrapolating broadly—from reviews of Nabokov, Cary, Sitwell, and others—into tolerably enduring essays. Of particular note are his musings on a variety of forceful personalities, eccentrics, and cranks—"characters" is the polite designation here—that inspire some of the best writing in this collection. Extra points are in order for Davies' appreciation of Osbert Sitwell ("The aristocrat, in our century of the Common Man, is an underestimated creature. . .") and Dylan Thomas. Fans are likely to note a relationship between the author's connoisseurship of eccentricity here and the sorts of characters that tend to run amok in his novels. Appropriately enough, Davies' fascination for such personalities is capped off with a number of essays organized around his own behavior, and somehow he manages to carry it off: Davies on his own book-collecting vices and life as an editor, in the end, steals the show. A grab bag, but a good one, suitable for browsing while waiting for Davies' next novel.

Pub Date: March 1, 1990

ISBN: 0140126597

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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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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