Readable, intriguing, sometimes even touching, but really just a riff on a “what if” medical question.

THE BODY

The ever-interesting Kureishi (Intimacy, 1999, etc.) conjures up a thought-provoker about an aging man who gets a young new body—and lives to regret it.

When the well-known London author and screenwriter Adam is in his mid-60s and in degenerating health, he meets a man far too young to have seen some of Adam’s earliest productions—yet who swears that he did see, and admire, them. In a nutshell? The man, named Ralph, is actually older than Adam: he’s had “surgery” to transplant his own brain—still perfectly good—into the hale and handsome body of a man who died young. Why not do the same, he urges Adam: have another fling at all the richness of life, another chance to push on in an already distinguished career? Adam tells his understanding wife that he’ll be away for six months—and, lo, Adam goes for the operation, picks out a good-looking new body from the many on display, then jaunts off to Europe for a half year of travel, food, sex, exploration, and adventure. But being suddenly a sought-after object of desire, fun enough at first, has its drawbacks—and dangers. Eluding one lover after another, Adam ends up on a Greek island doing menial work at a “spiritual center” for women run by the imperious and no-longer-young Patricia. Not only does Patricia thaw in a trice and fall hopelessly in lust with Adam, but she inadvertently acquaints him with the indescribably rich and yacht-owning playboy Matte, who reveals himself not only oh-most-evil, not only himself a “Newbody,” like Adam, but, for reasons never quite convincing to the reader, quite ready to track Adam down wherever he may flee in order to “kill” Adam and snatch his great body for his own uses. The outcome will be wholly different indeed from anything Adam could ever have wanted.

Readable, intriguing, sometimes even touching, but really just a riff on a “what if” medical question.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4904-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2003

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While the love triangle is interesting, perhaps most compelling is the story of one woman's single-minded pursuit of her...

LITTLE GODS

Love and ambition clash in a novel depicting China's turbulent 1980s.

Jin's debut is at heart a mystery, as a young Chinese American woman returns to China to try to understand her recently deceased mother's decisions and to find her biological father. Liya grew up with a single mother, the brilliant but troubled physicist Su Lan, who refused to talk about Liya's missing father. Mother and daughter grew increasingly estranged as Su Lan obsessed over her theoretical research. Complicating Liya's search for truth is the fact she was born in Beijing on June 4, 1989, the very night of the government crackdown on the protesters at Tiananmen Square. Su Lan changed Liya's birth year on her papers to obscure this fact in America. The reader is meant to wonder if Liya's father perhaps died during the crackdown. However, this is not a novel about the idealism of the student reform movement or even the decisions behind the government's use of lethal force. Instead Jin focuses on the personalities of three students: the young Su Lan as well as Zhang Bo and Li Yongzong, two of her high school classmates who were rivals for her affection. The novel shifts point of view and jumps back and forth in time, obscuring vital pieces of information from the reader in order to prolong the mystery. Not all the plot contrivances make sense, but Su Lan is a fascinating character of a type rarely seen in fiction, an ambitious woman whose intellect and drive allow her to envision changing the very nature of time. The title refers to the thoughts of a nurse, musing about the similarities that she sees between the Tiananmen student demonstrators and the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution: "A hunger for revolution, any Great Revolution, whatever it stands for, so long as where you stand is behind its angry fist. Little gods, she thinks."

While the love triangle is interesting, perhaps most compelling is the story of one woman's single-minded pursuit of her ambition.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293595-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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