THREE HOUSES

A sweet but not saccharine recollection of a happy Victorian childhood in England, replete with stern nannies, sausage breakfasts, loving parents, and indulgent grandparents. Appearing in the US for the first time, this 1931 volume is one of a series of Thirkell's works, including more than 30 novels that are being reissued here. In this memoir Thirkell recalls the time and places in which she spent her turn-of-the- century childhood. She was the granddaughter of painter Edward Burne-Jones, one of the inner circle of pre-Raphaelite artists and poets that included Gabriel Rossetti and designer William Morris. The three houses are those of her parents in London's Kensington section, of her grandparents in what is now West Kensington, plus a seaside home where the family spent its summers. From the nursery window of her parents' home—next door to an historic pub—Thirkell could watch the panorama on Kensington Square, including a parade of colorful street performers. Sometimes the family would visit neighbors, among them the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, ``Aunt Stella'' to Thirkell. On winter Sundays, Thirkell's family would lunch with her grandparents in a house that once belonged to 18th-century novelist Samuel Richardson. Visitors came and went, among them Princess Alexandra, while the children played in the orchard or occasionally slipped into their grandfather's forbidden studio, where a manikin with a papier-mÉchÇ head titillated them. Most beloved was the house at the sea. Full of nooks and crannies where the children created great adventures, it was just across from the home where cousin Rudyard Kipling's family was ensconced. Offering memories of a childhood as romantic and rich as her grandfather's paintings, Thirkell leavens the lushness with some tart observations about the arbitrary strictures of Victorian life. Tales of a domestic happiness—a refreshing foil to the current wave of tales of abusive and narcissistic families.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-55921-215-2

Page Count: 134

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1997

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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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