A diverting frolic through Pearson’s particular narrative homeland, filled with eccentrics and elaborate anecdotes that will...

POLAR

Pearson’s ninth outing (after Blue Ridge, 2000) is a gangly ramble: a simple tale about a Virginia ne’er-do-well whose sudden capacity to tell the future makes him helpful in the case of a missing girl.

On such a threadbare plot Pearson spins and twines a lavish embroidery, sparkling with characters, tinted by anecdotes, and darkened by an overall hue of the good-humored fatalism endemic to Pearson’s work. Things begin as Clayton, a harmless deadbeat common to the author's small-town Virginia, suddenly abandons his days of watching the pornographic Satin Channel via a pilfered cable dish; instead, he sets about producing enigmatic charcoal drawings on the walls of his house and prophetic, albeit indistinct, mutterings no one can make much sense of. Enter Police Deputy Ray and his sassy-mouthed, part-time sidekick and former girlfriend Kit. The two begin paying attention to Clayton’s phrases and drawings. At the same time, a local woman’s daughter is abducted, and the amusingly absurd account of what she does with her life in the aftermath is one of the brightest story-notes in an otherwise routine set of events. (She becomes a TV anchorwoman and drinks amply from the well of counterfeit media celebrity—a subject the author takes more than one shot at.) As it turns out, Clayton is somehow “channeling” for a member of the British Polar Expedition of 1911. Among his utterances are the names of apples, and when Ray and Kit go to an orchard, they find the girl safe and healthy. Clayton himself simply disappears at the close, perhaps fittingly in a novel more notable for its fine style and language than for the architecture of its plot.

A diverting frolic through Pearson’s particular narrative homeland, filled with eccentrics and elaborate anecdotes that will entertain while the tale is, well, gotten on with.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2002

ISBN: 0-670-03035-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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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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