Whimsy and wit float through these stories like fairy dust, and while the enchantment sometimes has a mechanical quality,...



Ten clever tales in a philosophical vein, often delicately surreal, from novelist Brownrigg (The Metaphysical Touch, 1999), who muses on the place of women in every capacity from makers of the world’s wonders to givers of parties.

The first story, “Amazon,” is perhaps the least effective, presenting a nebulous image of a pair of female wonder-workers responsible for everything from the pyramids to the Golden Gate Bridge; the older finally retires to let her assistant take over. Subsequent stories, though, offer in detail situations both more substantial and more profound. “The Bird Chick” tells of a woman who cares for the birds in a city park and speaks to them, coming to have such power over them that she can direct them in a performance of Hamlet, a performance that changes the lives of those who see it. There are other strong links between woman and the natural world: “The Broad from Abroad” is a visitor to the city who speaks of her male friends Henry, Joseph, and Bob—each one a forest—with great fondness, even as she indicates a preference for city life because there she can talk and be talked to; and “Mistress of Many Moons” is interviewed about her romances and intimacy with the masters of the night sky. More melancholy and down-to-earth, perhaps, are “She Who Caught Buses,” about a librarian whose prejudices toward a certain group of people, the Chranks, are explained by a childhood experience in which they sank to the bottom of a pond to find the treasure she had yearned for; and the party story, “Mars Needs Women,” about a caterer, confronted with a bash to which no one came, decides to move to Mars.

Whimsy and wit float through these stories like fairy dust, and while the enchantment sometimes has a mechanical quality, mostly it can bring about wonder and delight.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-27289-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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