Another sound feminist resurrection by a seasoned historian.



Though Norman queens were largely unknowable, leave it to this prolific historical biographer to bring them to life.

Having previously tackled the lives of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of France, not to mention the Tudors (The Lost Tudor Princess: The Life of Margaret Douglas, 2017, etc.), English author and novelist Weir presents five queens of the post–Norman Invasion era who sometimes wielded power in their own right, and not just as queen consort. While the author asserts that her portraits are based on primary material, there is scant little to go by, or what she calls with charming understatement “tantalizing gaps,” because “the deeds of women, unless they were notably pious, politically important, or scandalous, were rarely thought worth recording.” However, in England, the Salic code of the Franks, forbidding succession by or through women, did not apply. Consequently, not only did many kings gain their titles through their female ancestors, but some queens got a shot at ruling, such as Empress Maud (1102-1167), widowed queen of the Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich V and designated successor of her father, Henry I of England. The first queen Weir portrays is William the Conqueror’s headstrong wife, Matilda of Flanders (1032?-1083), who initially scorned marrying a “bastard.” However, after he roughed her up, she agreed to marry him, saying, “for he must be a man of great courage and high daring who could venture to come and beat me in my own father’s palace.” After their three-decade marriage and long reigns, their son Henry, acceding to the throne after the suspicious death of his older brother, married the controversial Edith of Scotland (renamed Matilda) in order to unite the Norman-Saxon kingdoms in the slow process of integration. Their daughter, Empress Maud, proved a shrewd, and not always well-loved, elder stateswoman. As usual, Weir is meticulous in her research, though the barrage of royal ancestry may deter some American readers.

Another sound feminist resurrection by a seasoned historian.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-96666-2

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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