The charm and innocence of the storytelling from Gabriel’s point of view make a substantial contribution to a moving,...


A delicate, spot-on evocation of childhood amid turmoil and tragedy, Troyan’s fine debut features a spunky ten-year-old forced to grow up before her time.

Gabriel is no more wicked or curious than any other girl her age, but circumstances do conspire to make her somewhat fierce. On her family’s usual summer holiday in the French countryside, the first hint of impending disaster comes when she learns that the house’s caretaker has died since the previous visit. Making themselves comfortable anyway, Gabriel, her nearly deaf younger sister Alex, their beautiful mother, their grandmother and her sister from South Africa, and their moody nanny all await the arrival of their American father. When he does arrive it’s just for a short visit, long enough to drop a bombshell: he’s fallen for another woman. This news sends Gabriel’s already flighty mother into a state somewhere between a funk and a frenzy, in which she has little time for either of her children. Granny fills in as best she can, which is fine with Gabriel, who adores her. But when Granny falls and sprains an ankle, the doctor next door (actually a psychiatrist but willing to make a house call when he finds Gabriel’s mother fetchingly at his door) enters their lives and takes her away from her kids even more. The nanny, meanwhile, has a thing going with the Spanish chauffeur, and when it doesn’t go smoothly she hits the gin hard. All of this Gabriel and little Alex might have been able to bear, given time and affection, but when Granny suddenly dies late one afternoon, after climbing with Gabriel to their favorite spot on the hill above the house, there’s no one to take her place, and, ready or not, the girls are left to find their own way to a better place.

The charm and innocence of the storytelling from Gabriel’s point of view make a substantial contribution to a moving, beautifully crafted novel.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-57962-083-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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