A lively account, but lacking in analysis.

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UNWISE PASSIONS

A TRUE STORY OF A REMARKABLE WOMAN—AND THE FIRST GREAT SCANDAL OF EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY AMERICA

Crawford (Thunder on the Right, not reviewed) gives us a rollicking good tale of the downfall of an 18th-century maiden.

On September 16, 1774, Nancy Randolph was born into one of the most powerful families in colonial Virginia. She grew up with all the privileges of the gentry, and all the expectations, too. Considered a great beauty, she had been raised to snag the scion of another good Virginia family—but she sparked the most sordid sexual scandal of the Revolutionary era instead. At 18, she was accused of seducing Richard Randolph, her sister’s husband, and then coercing him into killing the baby she gave birth to nine months later. Richard and Nancy both declared their innocence, claiming that shiftless slaves had invented the story out of whole cloth. Richard admitted he had been most attentive to his pretty sister-in-law, but he denied sleeping with her. He spent a small fortune procuring the services of Patrick (“give me liberty or give me death”) Henry to represent him in court, and he was acquitted—but to no avail: Nancy’s name was mud. Men who had once fought to dance with her haughtily declared that they’d never lay a hand on her again. Now known as the Jezebel of Virginia, she moved north, settling in New York and marrying renowned New York politician Gouverneur Morris. Her son eventually built a church in her honor—St. Ann’s of Morisannia (the parish Jonathan Kozol recently wrote about in Ordinary Resurrections, p. 453). Crawford tells Nancy’s story in fast-paced, page-turning prose, but she fails to explain the lasting significance of this scandal. Is Nancy’s saga just a good yarn, a quaint, 18th-century version of Monicagate? Or is there more here than picturesque entertainment? It’s far from clear.

A lively account, but lacking in analysis.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-83474-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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