Summary and book reviews of The Kites by Romain Gary

The Kites by Romain Gary, Miranda Richmond Mouillot X
The Kites by Romain Gary, Miranda Richmond Mouillot
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  • Published:
    Oct 2017, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts

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Book Summary

Romain Gary's bittersweet final masterpiece, a novel of courage and resistance - never before in English.

On a small farm in Normandy, as Hitler rises to power in Germany, young Ludo comes of age in the care of his Uncle Ambrose, an eccentric mailman, kite-maker, and pacifist. Ludo's quiet existence changes the day he meets Lila, a girl from the aristocratic Polish family who own the estate next door. In a single glance, Ludo instantly falls in love forever; Lila, on the other hand, remains elusive. Thus begins Ludo's adventure of longing, passion, and steadfast love for Lila, who begins to reciprocate his feelings just as Europe descends into war. After Germany invades Poland, Lila and her family disappear, and Ludo's journey to save her from the Nazis becomes a journey to save his loved ones, his country, and ultimately himself.

Filled with unforgettable characters - an indomitable chef who believes Michelin stars are more enduring than military conquests; a Jewish brothel Madam who reinvents everything about herself during the war; a piano virtuoso turned RAF pilot--The Kites is Romain Gary's poetic call for resistance in whatever form it takes.

Nowadays, the little museum in Cléry devoted to the works of Ambrose Fleury is only a minor tourist attraction. Most of its visitors drift over after lunch at the Clos Joli, a restaurant that guidebooks unanimously praise as one of France's most celebrated landmarks. These same guidebooks note the little museum's existence with the words, "worth a side trip." The museum's five rooms hold most of my uncle's work — the pieces that survived the war, the Occupation, the Liberation fighting, and all the vicissitudes and lassitudes our people has known.

Whatever their country of origin, all kites are born in the popular imagination, which is what gives them their slightly naive look; Ambrose Fleury's kites were no exception, even the final pieces he made in his old age bear that stamp of innocence and that freshness of soul. Despite lagging interest and the slim funding it receives from the municipal government, it's unlikely the museum will close its doors ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Published by New Directions for the first time in English, Romain Gary's The Kites tells a story of heroism and hope as the inhabitants of the small town of ClĂ©ry in Normandy face occupation by the Nazis during World War II. The Kites' only flaw is that its principal characters are somewhat one-dimensional. ohn Markham Beach is a superb translator, ensuring through footnotes that the reader has access to Gary's many historical allusions and plays on words that require dual language explanation; The Kites is a moving love story that is an ode to the power of optimism.   (Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

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Media Reviews

Time
Romain Gary has created a gallery of heroes who are willing to die for liberty but have to settle for the lesser victory of self-knowledge.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Smart and wonderfully life-affirming; for a wide range of readers.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A rich and layered love story that begins in innocence and moves through hardship toward a broad humanity.

Publishers Weekly
Gary handles the emotional tightrope of espionage and the brutal reality of battle with clarity and precision, all captured magnificently by Mouillot's translation...This is a wonderful translation of a French classic.

Author Blurb James Laughlin
Most delicious and extraordinary.

Author Blurb Jean-Paul Sartre
What a gold mine!

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Beyond the Book

D-Day at Normandy

In the dramatic final pages of The Kites, the Allies arrive in Normandy to liberate its inhabitants from Nazi occupation, an event that occurred on June 6, 1944 and drastically altered the landscape of World War II. It was the most expansive amphibious invasion in history, with British, American, and Canadian flotillas storming five separate beaches simultaneously, with assistance from additional troops in the air. The entire assault was codenamed "Operation Overlord"; the naval assault was called "Operation Neptune." In total, the Allied forces numbered around 156,000, the vast majority arriving by sea.

Glimpse of the Normandy Invasion The Allied assault was led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower (who went on to be elected president of the United States in 1952). ...

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