A compelling existential mystery, on one level a sort of Catalan answer to Russell Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter, with a...

THE BOYS

Beguiling, odd story of what happens to a small town when death pays an unexpected visit.

Vidreres isn’t much of a town, a forgettable spot after a blind hill that opens onto a striking view of the “luminous teeth of the Pyrenees.” Like the spectral village at the center of Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo, it’s full of ghosts—but also the usual human preoccupations of sex, power, betrayal, poverty, the sight of money moving “between men like a gust of wind.” Catalan author Sala makes this tiny place his own, populating it with a cast that revolves around two unfortunate dead teenagers, Jaume and Xavi Batlle, whose little Peugeot goes flying off into a tree one fateful Saturday. The crash that kills the youngsters is a mystery, though one villager, better educated than most, speculates that it’s no accident; as he tells a brawling truck driver who’s no stranger to mayhem, “A lot of accidents are suicides and no one realizes.” Sometimes an accident is just an accident, true, but this “death that doesn’t let death live” changes the lives of everyone in Vidreres. One is Iona, a teenage girl who might easily have been in the car with the boys had she accepted Jaume’s invitation to go with them that evening; now she’s left to wrestle with survivor’s guilt, because while a big-city girl might have gone to a psychiatrist or grief counselor, “in Vidreres, because of the way Vidreres was, she would have to deal with it herself.” Tough guy Miqui is no exception: he bluffs and blusters, but he’s touched, too, as is the milquetoast bank manager whose great act of midlife-crisis reconciliation is to sneak out to see a hooker and then ponder the consequences: “Had the dead boys been released from inside him, during his orgasm?” It's a fruitful question, one of many that Sala poses.

A compelling existential mystery, on one level a sort of Catalan answer to Russell Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter, with a closing as haunting as a tale by Poe. Altogether brilliant.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-931883-49-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Two Lines Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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