An uneven love story, with poetic moments.


In his first novel, poet Benton (Birds, 2002, etc.) delivers a lyrical yet ultimately insubstantial story of an affair singed by mental illness.

Poet Bill, 49, meets Irina, a 25-year-old Russian coat-check-girl-turned-stripper-turned-poet, in a New York City video store—he spies her from across the room and recommends a movie; she phones in the middle of the night to tell him how much she liked it. From there, an average literary romance unfolds: Bill woos Irina with long walks, home-cooked dinners, copious amounts of wine and, of course, poetry. Lots and lots of poetry. They spend days taking walks around the city, translating Pasternak, making love. Little exists for them outside their courtship and exotic turns of phrase. But along with her supermodel body, sexual dynamism and talent for explicating Russian verse, Irina’s got a dark side. Abject moods begin to pepper their union, and Bill is forced to confront them for what they are: not merely blues or intimacy issues but manic depression that borders on psychosis. Her mercurial nature is a roadblock to any kind of stability in the relationship. Of course, part of Bill is attracted to her craziness—isn’t poetry borne of madness?—but eventually it becomes wearing, and he attempts to bring her down to earth. But as hard as he tries—with patience, pleading and eventually a psychiatric referral—Bill can’t tether Irina to reality any more that he could permanently cuff her to his side. The relationship is doomed, destined to grind to an unsatisfying end. And along the way, the novel becomes as repetitive as her mania. What lifts it on occasion is Benton’s imaginative, even melodic descriptions, some of which could stand alone as stanzas.

An uneven love story, with poetic moments.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59376-083-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Shoemaker & Hoard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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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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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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