IN THE HOUSE OF BLUE LIGHTS

A frustratingly uneven second collection (which nevertheless won this year's Richard Sullivan Prize for Short Fiction) by the author of The Invention of Flight (1984). Hospitals and sickrooms are recurring settings in these 14 varied though uniformly moody stories, which often focus on mother-daughter tensions, unraveling marriages or affairs, and the traumatizing losses of loved ones. Three especially fine pieces stand out: ``Playhouse,'' though it's only a vignette, neatly illustrates the discomfiting resilience with which children separate themselves from their parents. In ``Witch,'' a tired waitress's bonding with her four children is strengthened by the story, which she hears secondhand, of a lonely customer's ``spirit'' pregnancy. And in ``Night Train,'' an old woman views a notorious case of abduction and rape through the distorting prism of her own erotic memories. The other stories, which are much inferior, offer far too many insufficiently differentiated portraits of ambivalent, betrayed, or destroyed relationships. A young woman's tale (``Blue'') of her grandfather's frustrated love for his (perhaps psychotic) second wife is left unresolved. So are ``Eclipse,'' which charts the relations among an unfaithful husband, his passive wife, and his hospitalized lover; ``Your Own Private Voice,'' about a mother lost to narcolepsy; and ``Quinella,'' which portrays a troubled couple unable to rejuvenate their intimacy by a trip to a racetrack. Too many of Neville's weaker stories blend together unaccountably as one reads them. Altogether, they seem like fragments of an unwritten (and perhaps unwrite-able) novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-268-01183-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Univ. of Notre Dame

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1998

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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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