Soap opera with a lot of grating Long Island tough talk, all the way from its obnoxious heroine and utterly implausible hero.


Firefighter’s daughter wows ’em at Carnegie Hall, in the third from Mandel (Out of the Blue, 2000, etc.).

Bess Stallone’s distinctly unmusical and resoundingly working-class family prefers Perry Como to much of anything else, and they have no idea she’s a prodigy. Fortunately, a teacher recognizes Bess’s raw talent, and 11-year-old Bess is soon happily banging away on an old upright she dubs “Amadoofus” and dreaming of Julliard. Flash forward several years: her abusive father has been crippled fighting fires and is making his long-suffering family’s life hell. When, after one too many Chopin études, he rises from his wheelchair and takes an axe to poor old Amadoofus, Bess throws herself upon the shattered piano and sobs, but vows that her life at least will go on. Blessed with spectacular cleavage as well as musical talent, she bumps into French piano virtuoso David Montagnier, who’s fascinated by the emotional power of her playing. He teaches her the art of performing, and it’s not long before he and Bess are dazzling audiences all over the world, despite her stage fright. And they fall in love, too, despite David’s mood swings and Beethovenish brooding (no, he’s not deaf—just depressed). Alas, Bess miscarries the baby she longs for, and David plunges into the depths of despair, finally drowning himself in a convenient lake after leaving Bess a final performance of her favorite piece of music, sensitively recorded. Grieving Bess then visits David’s former partner in Europe, who reveals some not exactly compelling secrets about him. Sadder but wiser, Bess looks for solace in the brawny arms of her childhood friend Jake. . . .

Soap opera with a lot of grating Long Island tough talk, all the way from its obnoxious heroine and utterly implausible hero.

Pub Date: April 16, 2002

ISBN: 0-345-42892-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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