Human, unpretentious, compelling explorations of what we are, and why.

THE JUDGES

From the prolific Nobelist, a novel rather artificially constructed—but for the worthy purpose of looking inside to find what meaning life can hold for any of us.

An airliner en route to Israel is forced down at a small airport on the blizzard-swept east coast, where the “survivors” are picked up by locals and given shelter until as the plane can take off again. Five of them are so unlucky as to be escorted home by a very strange man indeed, who puts them—imprisons them—in a sealed room, announces himself a “judge,” and declares his intent to play “games” with what’s most precious to them, “the power of their imagination.” As the “games” grow increasingly sinister—the judge at first insists only that each reveal something personal, but before the long night is over he’ll demand that one be chosen as an assassination victim—the travelers, increasingly frightened, become also increasingly introspective, so that we learn more and more about each of their lives. There is Claudia, a theater producer and director; Bruce Schwarz, an aging roué; Yoav, an Israeli soldier with a secret deadly disease; George Kirsten, a scholarly archivist; and, most central, Razziel Friedman, head of a Talmudic school in Brooklyn. As the life of each is revealed, so is the reason each has for continuing to live: a love affair, a historically important paper to deliver, or, as in Razziel’s case, an appointment with a mysterious figure who is to restore to him the memory of his life before age 18, lost in the ruinous trauma of his having been a political prisoner. There will be moments of memory, kindness, breakdown, pensiveness, and terror before an ending that (engineered by the judge’s hunchback “servant”) will seem convincing perhaps to few. But no matter. Wiesel, by then, will have entered the hearts, rewardingly, both of his characters and of his readers.

Human, unpretentious, compelling explorations of what we are, and why.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-40909-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2002

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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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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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