THE GODS ARE THIRSTY

In a substantial shift from her recent fantasy/horror efforts (Darkness, I, 1996, etc.), Lee turns to the dreams and horrors of the French Revolution to give a sexually charged, if massive, account of its first citizens. (See also Marge Piercy's latest, below.) Narrated by firebrand Camille Desmoulins, whose words from tabletop and printing press helped spark the Revolution's triumphs, the story begins just before the storming of the Bastille. By means of a single speech at a pivotal moment and a manifesto published soon after, little-known, impoverished Camille sets the Paris mob in motion, earning the sobriquet ``Author of the Revolution.'' A number of figures attempt to harness or exploit Camille's fame— most prominent among them being Danton, larger than life, who takes Camille under his wing, sharing ideas and prostitutes with him in equal measure. Camille's newfound glory also convinces the lovely Lucile's father to agree to their marriage, giving Camille the prize of his dreams as well as an unshakable advocate at his side. The triumph of toppling the king is paralleled by Lucile's giving birth to a son, but in the hard days to follow, with enemies of the Republic gathering outside and inside its borders, with Paris starving, and with factions within the new government increasingly at each other's throats, Camille has little cause for rejoicing. As heads roll in increasing numbers, including those of friends, he is torn by old loyalties and the desire to maintain his own fiery influence on the public mood. Inevitably, Camille is destroyed by the Revolution he helped begin and is sent with Danton to the guillotine—knowing that his cause is doomed and that his beloved Lucile will very likely follow him shortly. A familiar story, certainly, but told with feeling and force: The private lives and thoughts of Camille and his contemporaries emerge in ways both credible and compelling, giving this version of the French Revolution a distinctive aura of personal tragedy. (First printing of 50,000; $30,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 1996

ISBN: 0-87951-672-0

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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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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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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