Really an extended sketch as much as a novel, but nevertheless chilling and affecting, narrated simply, without melodrama or...



A slight but moving debut about life in Cambodia during the Pol Pot reign.

When the Khmer Rouge took power in the 1970s, they ushered in one of the bloodiest and cruelest of regimes. A Communist of astonishing ferocity, Pol Pot ordered the cities emptied and all of their inhabitants sent to “reeducation centers” in backcountry jungles and fields. Millions died. We witness this tragedy through the eyes of Ona Ny, a Cambodian wife and mother of three who lived peacefully on her father’s rice plantation in the years leading up to the revolution. At first, Ona and her husband Eng greeted the Khmer Rouge as liberators from the corrupt and brutal dictatorship of Lon Nol. Soon, however, it became clear that the new regime would be far crueler than the old. Ona, in fact, had an inkling of this when she had a vision of the Buddha weeping, and she begged Eng to take her and the children to Thailand to stay with an uncle there. But Eng refused to leave his homeland, and the family ended up in a camp where they were set to work on pointless “jobs” (building roads to nowhere, digging and filling up holes) that served no purpose but to bring death from exhaustion. Ona, however, came to the attention of the camp’s sadistic commandant, who asked her to look after his own young children. Only by ingratiating herself to him in this way did she manage to survive, along with her husband and children, and outlive the regime. After the Khmer Rouge fell, Ona and her family were transferred to a refugee camp in Thailand and eventually resettled in California. Eng was a broken man, but Ona adjusted to life in America and her children went on to successful and happy careers.

Really an extended sketch as much as a novel, but nevertheless chilling and affecting, narrated simply, without melodrama or bombast.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-9671851-8-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: GreyCore

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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