A superb book that greatly deepens our understanding of these founders.



A monumental account of a 50-year political partnership that shaped the early history of the United States.

In a dual biography of uncommon merit, Louisiana State University historians Burstein (Jefferson’s Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello, 2005, etc.) and Isenberg (Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr, 2007, etc.) pierce the “poetic protection” that surrounds the Founding Fathers to create a clear-eyed view of the political careers of two remarkable elder sons of the Virginia elite. Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) and James Madison (1751–1836) emerge in a new light as individuals who made equal contributions to the early republic. The younger man, Madison, neither a shy dullard nor a junior partner, as often described, was a forceful legislator and a persuasive writer, and he orchestrated Jefferson’s career, acting like a sort of campaign manager. Jefferson, a man of great feeling with an almost retiring manner but a lyrical pen, thrived in politicized settings, seeking to crush his enemies. The two men first met in 1776. Both were affable, bookish intellectuals, both served as president and both were accomplished political thinkers and tacticians. Always remaining “Virginians first, Americans second,” they changed their young nation’s political discourse and direction. Against a sweeping and readable history of the era, the authors explore the lives and political thought of the two men as well as their shared affection for the land and farming, as evidenced by their beloved country seats—Madison’s Montpelier and Jefferson’s Monticello—which are 25 miles apart. Burstein and Isenberg bring vivid life to Jefferson’s work on the Declaration of Independence and Notes on Virginia, and demonstrate the ways in which his sojourns in France influenced his views on such matters as creating opportunities for the poor, the importance of individual rights and farming’s contribution to society. The authors deem Federalist Papers contributor Madison a bold legislator who, while hardly the “father” of the Constitution, was nonetheless outspoken at the Constitutional Convention.

A superb book that greatly deepens our understanding of these founders.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6728-2

Page Count: 832

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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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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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...


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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