THE LYRE OF ORPHEUS

Canadian novelist Davies once again delivers the goods—with this solidly entertaining finale to the trilogy struck up by Rebel Angels (1982) and carried through in What's Bred in the Bone (1985). Blending a characteristic knack for wit, esoterica, and snobbery, Davies charges ahead with a buoyant tale of upper-class grantsmanship and modern-day cuckoldry. What Rebel Angels was for academe, and what Bred in the Bone was for art, his newest is for opera. Davies' central cast, resurfacing from previous novels, here conspire to reconstruct and mount an unfinished opera by the German romantic composer E.T.A. Hoffman—and the project is more than sufficient to generate the collegial rivalry and highbrow asides that have become the hallmarks of Davies' style. Arthur and Maria Cornish return—heading up a money-bag foundation formed in Bred in the Bone—with the intention of funding Hoffman's Magnanimous Cuckold; but it wouldn't be a Davies novel if we didn't also get a few wrangling intellectuals in tow, including Rev. Simon Darcourt and Clem Hollier, two Rebel Angels and Bred in the Bone alumni. A contemptible but brilliant graduate student by the name of Schnakenburg provides the musical score and learns a few manners along the way; the ghost of E.T.A. Hoffman himself provides commentary from that corner of limbo where unfulfilled artists go after this vale of cultural tears. At the core of the psychological action, Arthur and Maria reenact the Arthurian legend of Magnanimous Cuckold when—following evidence that Arthur has become impotent—Maria gets pregnant, and a close friend of Arthur's is singled out as the culprit. Along with this, there's Simon Darcourt's education in larceny when he swipes a painting and uncovers yet another juicy tidbit—art forgery—buried in the Cornish dynasty. A spry jaunt from an old master—once again in full command of the form.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0140114335

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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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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