Only a Brit could have produced this solipsistically witsome reflection of contemporary life—and nobody does it better.


British novelist Hannah debuts here with a biting, severely realistic George Elliotesque take on a group of late-20s professionals centered in Cambridge and Yorkshire who totter precipitously on the verge of breakup and calamity.

Sim Purdy, story editor for the popular TV soap drama Potters Court, is the galvanizing center of her group of far-flung friends, who tolerate each other only because of unfathomable English school affiliations and Sim's insistence on “tribal belonging.” She lives in Yorkshire with grumpy, combative Francis, who writes for the BBC; the big wedding of their idyllically suited friends Lucy and Matt, now living in Washington, D.C., is only weeks away, but another branch of the tree, Campbell and Eve in Manchester, has mysteriously and subversively split. Sim, the consummate macher more interested in meddling in other people's affairs than in facing her own (which include coming clean about a fling with unsavory Andrew Johnson), deems it her duty to bring Campbell to his senses by ridiculing his dopey new love, heiress to the Napper tobacco fortune. Meanwhile, a Cambridge couple, ferocious-tempered, profane literary editor Vanessa and her politically minded Modern Languages lover Nicholas, begin to chill after Vanessa drives into a Chinese cyclist and sees how sadistic she can play; while Nicholas finds himself blackmailed by Gillian, one of the group's former floozy friends turned pariah. It would be nearly impossible to engage the reader's attention in a dozen characters, and not half of them sympathetic, except that Hannah via Sim cares so deeply about the nuances of intention, action, and consequence that the reader is dragged, albeit reluctantly, through reams and reams of spiraling gossip. Who cares? some of the (male) characters continually mouth, but Hannah's meticulous and thorough process is actually fascinating for its own sake.

Only a Brit could have produced this solipsistically witsome reflection of contemporary life—and nobody does it better. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56947-281-5

Page Count: 439

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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