Thomas is a literary star in the United Kingdom. She should be in the United States, too.


A gnarly family drama from the acclaimed author of Our Tragic Universe (2010) and The End of Mr. Y (2006).

It’s probably best to start by explaining who will hate this book. Readers who require likable protagonists will hate this book; the members of the Gardener family and its satellites are, almost without exception, a catalog of human weakness and vice. Readers who are unsettled by formal experiment will hate this; Thomas uses a cacophony of voices, moves around in time, and frequently interrupts the narrative with thought experiments. And readers who shy away from profanity and perversity will hate this book; freewheeling British usage of language that is intensely objectionable to American ears just compounds the problem. So, the colonial audience for this book is, perhaps, narrow. But, O! How that audience will love it! Thomas' latest is a multigenerational saga, but it’s also an extended meditation on the Buddhist concept of attachment. And it’s a hyperbolic, raunchy, hilarious immersion in the connected lives of some intensely imperfect people. The catalyst for the story is the death of Oleander Gardener, the guiding spirit of both her botanist family and a spiritual retreat that houses various refugees, weirdos, and the occasional celebrity. Oleander’s bequests include her home, a hunting lodge in the Outer Hebrides, and the seedpods of a plant that several members of her family died trying to find. Oleander is dead, but her presence looms, and the people she’s left behind are compelled to figure out what they’re going to do with their complicated inheritance—a question that expands beyond Oleander’s material gifts and reaches into the Gardener family’s past.

Thomas is a literary star in the United Kingdom. She should be in the United States, too.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59376-646-7

Page Count: 396

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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This new Baldwin novel is told by a 19-year-old black girl named Tish in a New York City ghetto about how she fell in love with a young black man, Fonny. He got framed on a rape charge and she got pregnant before they could marry and move into their loft; but Tish and her family Finance a trip to Puerto Rico to track down the rape victim and rescue Fonny, a sculptor with slanted eyes and treasured independence. The book is anomalous for the 1970's with its Raisin in the Sun wholesomeness. It is sometimes saccharine, but it possesses a genuinely sweet and free spirit too. Along with the reflex sprinkles of hate-whitey, there are powerful showdowns between the two black families, and a Frieze of people who — unlike Fonny's father — gave up and "congregated on the garbage heaps of their lives." The style wobbles as Tish mixes street talk with lyricism and polemic and a bogus kind of Young Adult hesitancy. Baldwin slips past the conflict between fighting the garbage heap and settling into a long-gone private chianti-chisel-and-garret idyll, as do Fonny and Tish and the baby. But Baldwin makes the affirmation of the humanity of black people which is all too missing in various kinds of Superfly and sub-fly novels.

Pub Date: May 24, 1974

ISBN: 0307275930

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974

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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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