A touching, sometimes-funny, often wise portrait of grief.

MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE'S SORRY

A contemporary fairy tale from the whimsical author of A Man Called Ove (2014).

Elsa is almost 8, and her granny is her best—and only—friend. Elsa’s precociousness and her granny’s disregard for societal rules mark them as trouble to most people they encounter and make Elsa a pariah at school. But every night she can journey with her granny to the Land-of-Almost-Awake, made of six kingdoms, each with its own strength, purpose, and interlocking mythologies that Elsa knows by heart. In the Land-of-Almost-Awake, Elsa doesn’t have to worry about how she fits in at school, in the apartment building full of misfits where she lives, or in her family, where both her parents are divorced and remarried and her mother is pregnant. When granny passes away with very little notice, Elsa is bereft. And angry. So angry that it’s almost no consolation that Elsa’s granny has left her a treasure hunt. But the hunt reveals that each misfit in her apartment building has a connection to her granny, and they all have a story reflected in the Land-of-Almost-Awake. Neither world is short on adventure, tragedy, or danger. This is a more complex tale than Backman’s debut, and it is intricately, if not impeccably, woven. The third-person narrative voice, when aligned with Elsa’s perspective, reveals heartfelt, innocent observations, but when moving toward omniscience, it can read as too clever by half. Given a choice, Backman seems more likely to choose poignancy over logic; luckily, the choice is not often necessary. As in A Man Called Ove, there are clear themes here, nominally: the importance of stories; the honesty of children; and the obtuseness of most adults, putting him firmly in league with the likes of Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman.

A touching, sometimes-funny, often wise portrait of grief.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1506-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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