Sprawling over the boundary between biography and fiction, a tale of the passionate adventures of Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson (18411918). There was little in Fanny Stevenson's Indiana farm background that would predict her courageous flight from Victorian convention, unless it was her father's Universalist religion or his determination to teach his daughters to be independent-minded. After following her first husband to the mining districts of Nevada and then to San Francisco, she left him to study painting in France, where she met Robert Louis Stevenson. Ever determined to be in the forefront of artistic trends, Fanny returned to California and settled in Monterey, where Stevenson joined her. She divorced her unfaithful, alcoholic husband in the teeth of opposition from even her most liberal relatives and married Stevenson. They then set out on their well-documented wanderings in the south of France, New York, Hawaii, and the South Seas. Lapierre (daughter of Dominique Lapierre) focuses almost entirely on Fanny and her family, rescuing her from the condescension and even hatred of Robert Louis Stevenson's friends, admirers, and biographers. But is this rightly called a biography? In a preliminary ``warning to the reader,'' Lapierre asserts that the facts conveyed here are strictly true, but concedes that she has often taken the best parts of several letters and reconstructed a better one for her biography. Furthermore, she frequently composes hypothetical conversations in order to make a good story or to illustrate the states of mind of Fanny and those around her. Yet Lapierre reassures the reader, not only with recurrent warnings in the text about gaps in her knowledge, but with intelligent commentary and attention to telling detail. Having energetically retraced Fanny Stevenson's steps, she uses her own knowledge of Nevada, Panama, and Samoa to give the reader a sense of immediacy and place. Published in a smooth and unobtrusive translation from the French, this book is difficult to put down.

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-7867-0127-7

Page Count: 520

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1995

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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


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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