THE NEXT STEP IN THE DANCE

An entertaining and immensely likable debut novel, set mostly in Louisiana's southwestern Gulf Stream area, from the talented Gautreaux (stories: Same Place, Same Things, 1996). When beautiful and brainy Colette Jeansomme marries good- looking Paul Thibodeaux (who's also a terrific dancer and the best damn mechanic in the pair's hometown of Tiger Island), their friends are sure it's the perfect match. But Colette tires of her unfulfilling bank teller's job and can't tolerate Paul's enthusiastic participation in the cult of Saturday night fistfighting or his habit of dancing (and, she suspects, enjoying further intimacies) with other womennot to mention his perfect satisfaction with his job (``He has no ambition,'' she complains. ``Fifty years from now he'll still be knee-deep in machine oil''). Threatening divorce, Colette flees to California, followed soon afterward by the contrite yet still feisty Paul. More complications in their stormy relationship, coupled with the inability of each to adapt to West Coast work- and life-styles, send them separately back to Tiger Island and a succession of crises (including Colette's encounter with a cottonmouth moccasin and Paul's perilous adventures both with an overheated boiler and a shrimp boat caught in a storm) that end with the two back where we know they've belonged from the beginning: together, whether they drive each other crazy or not. Though it's more than a little overplotted, Gautreaux's pitch-perfect account of the Thibodeauxes' bumpy road to love is powered by abundant energy and charm and by a townful of vividly rendered supporting characters (Paul's laconic reality instructors, his father and grandfather, lead a memorable parade of locals). And the story is set in a workingman's world that's fully, credibly, and (to the nonmechanical reader) sometimes even confusingly detailed. As a storyteller, and especially as one with such a good eye for character, Gautreaux looks like one of the best writers to have emerged in the 1990s. A fine first novel. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 18, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-18143-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Picador

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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