After the author’s fine debut, Cereus Blooms at Night (1998), this is a disappointment.

HE DROWN SHE IN THE SEA

Love crosses social boundaries and survives years of separation, in Canadian author Mootoo’s lush, sensuous second novel.

The contrasted settings are Vancouver’s Elderberry Bay and the fictional island of Guanagaspar, an “unprotected archipelago strewn to one side of the Caribbean Sea.” It begins in “the present day,” with emigrant Vancouver landscape gardener Harry St. George’s dream of his homeland (and of a destructive tidal wave) juxtaposed with the memories of an imperious government official’s wife initially identified only as “Madam”—whose relationship to Harry becomes clear when an emergency phone call from Madam’s daughter recalls him to Guanagaspar. The story’s long central section relates the brief marriage of Harry’s (Hindu) Indian mother Dolly to the fisherman Seudath (drowned when his boat is lost at sea), and the innocent friendship that develops, throughout the 1940s, between young Harry and Rose Sangha, the privileged daughter of the kindly matron who employs Dolly as her housemaid and accepts her as a friend. But wartime tensions and the haughty domestic tyranny of Sangha père “exile” Harry from Rose’s company, even when they later attend the same school, and after Rose weds the island’s future attorney general—finally sending Harry to his new life in Canada. The reader infers these identities and relationships only gradually, thanks to an inexplicably convoluted structure that emphasizes the singularity of Mootoo’s characters without clearly presenting them. All is explained eventually by the climax, in which Harry’s hopeful return to Guanagaspar is met by the news announced in Mootoo’s title, a flurry of new information blended with more flashbacks and a curious, dramatically unsatisfying resolution. Mootoo’s second aims to be a Caribbean Wuthering Heights, but its perplexing obscurity removes it as far from Emily Brontë’s Yorkshire as from her novel’s shapely clarity.

After the author’s fine debut, Cereus Blooms at Night (1998), this is a disappointment.

Pub Date: May 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8021-1798-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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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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