Very nearly equal to the magnificent Blindness: another invaluable gift from a matchless writer.


Passive political defiance stirs up a whirlwind of intrigue, repression and bureaucratic insanity in the 1998 Nobel laureate’s 12th translated novel.

It’s a partial sequel to Saramago’s widely acclaimed 1998 novel Blindness, an allegory about a city’s populace mysteriously stricken with, then released from an epidemic of white blindness. Here, the same unidentified city (undoubtedly Lisbon) incurs governmental wrath when, during a major election, 70 percent of those voting leave their ballots blank. This intriguing premise doubtless fictionalizes both Saramago’s own eventual rejection of the Communist Party of which he had been a member for many years, and the highly publicized tax problems that led him to depart his native Portugal and live in the Canary Islands. In any case, this is a mordant satire that vividly communicates contempt for entrenched authority in all forms: in particular, a panicked administration that denounces dissent as treason, spies on its citizens (sound familiar?), eventually moves its capitol to another location, suspends civil liberties, organizes “counterterrorist” violence—and sends an assassin to take out the doctor’s wife (in Blindness, the one character who didn’t lose eyesight) suspected of masterminding “the blank vote movement” and “singled out for public execration as an enemy of her country and of her people.” The spirit of George Orwell rises from these blistering pages—compulsively readable despite Saramago’s fondness for sparse punctuation and lengthy run-on paragraphs. The general thrust is crystallized in deftly drawn generic characters: the befuddled republic’s president, a power-hungry interior minister, a police superintendent who hopes against hope to do the right thing and many other villains and victims, citizens and co-conspirators. And Saramago caps it with a devastating ironic ending.

Very nearly equal to the magnificent Blindness: another invaluable gift from a matchless writer.

Pub Date: April 10, 2006

ISBN: 0-15-101238-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2006

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


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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