A consummate dramatization of the impenetrable mysteriousness of other people’s lives: convincing proof that de Loo is one...

A BED IN HEAVEN

The ordeal of Hungarian Jewry during WWII, survivor guilt, and the unbridgeable distances between people yearning to connect—these are the major motifs sounded in this brisk, elegiac second US appearance by the Dutch author of The Twins (2000).

A virtuosic juxtaposition of different time periods and clashing viewpoints, the tale begins with its female narrator’s declaration that, having just buried her father, “I am lying in bed with his son.” She is Kata Roszsavölgyi, the daughter of a celebrated Hungarian composer who had survived the war in Holland, hidden in the home of Ida Flinck, the Dutchwoman who became both his lover and the mistress of a Nazi officer. De Loo’s flexible narrative reaches backward not only to Kata’s girlhood in Budapest, but also to her forebears’ experiences, as recounted by her uncle Miksa: chiefly, (his brother) her father’s “escape” from Hungary to study music, and thus evade the fate their parents and sister met; more generally, the story of a proud culture’s swift annihilation by Hitler’s armies. And, as in The Twins, de Loo offers a stunning coincidence, as Kata falls in love with Stefan, a suave womanizing student—until she meets his mother: Ida Flinck. Is Stefan the son of the German officer? Or, as Kata knows in her bones, of her reclusive, emotionless (and presumably guilt-ridden) father? Ironies multiply and unanswerable questions press down with the weight of years and generations, as these characters’ several stories intersect and collide, and the tale moves swiftly toward its wrenching climax, with Kata and Stefan burying “their” father, their love, and perhaps all hope of ever knowing what they are to each other—and even who they are.

A consummate dramatization of the impenetrable mysteriousness of other people’s lives: convincing proof that de Loo is one of Europe’s most accomplished novelists.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-56947-316-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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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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