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


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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