CHARMING BILLY

McDermott (At Weddings and Wakes, 1992, etc.) extends her view of Irish-American life with this gentle portrait of an alcoholic freshly dead from drink, and of the family he leaves behind to reveal and remember. Everyone at the wake agreed that Billy Lynch was a fine man- -when sober. But they also knew something of his pain, born from the long-ago death of his fiancÇ just before she was to come back to Brooklyn after a trip to Ireland. Only his cousin and best friend Dennis, though, knew the whole story: Eva didn't die, but she did marry her Irish love—a fact he concealed from Billy for 30 years, not knowing that Billy would mourn what might have been for the rest of his life, even after he met and married the gentle, love-struck Maeve. Then, in Ireland in 1975, to take The Pledge after years of hard drinking, Billy learned the truth by chancing to meet Eva as he was on his way to visit her grave—and promptly took back his Pledge. As he had in times previous, Dennis helped Maeve through the years that followed, answering Billy's wee-hours phone calls and bringing him to bed whenever he'd passed out, even as Dennis's own wife sickened of cancer and died. And now Dennis's daughter, grown with children of her own, has come home to support him after Billy was found dying in the street—just as Dennis supported Billy and Maeve, and as his father before him supported countless penniless Irish relations as they made the leap across the Atlantic to a new life. It's this daughter who puts the pieces of Billy's sad but profoundly loyal existence together, mingling them with her father's and her own in a special way that leaves her well prepared for the turn of events to come. A softly resonant and nostalgic tale told so masterfully, so movingly, that it seems to distill a human essence on virtually every page.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-12080-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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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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