An authentic survivor’s story, more disturbing and awe-inspiring than any TV reality show.

TO THE EDGE OF THE SKY

A STORY OF LOVE, BETRAYAL, SUFFERING AND THE STRENGTH OF HUMAN COURAGE

A refugee now living in England graphically chronicles the hardships, losses, and horrors she endured in Mao’s China.

Born in 1949, the year the Communists took over, Gao was the third daughter of two prominent Party members. The first years of her childhood in Nanjing were happy, but in 1956 her father died of cancer, and five years later her mother succumbed to heart trouble. Her family, which now included a brother, was split up among relatives, and Gao was sent to live with an uncle in Shanghai who frequently berated her and failed to give her adequate clothing. Her life was to be even more drastically affected by the series of purges and upheavals initiated in 1964 that culminated in the Cultural Revolution. To redress the tremendous losses caused by the Great Leap Forward of 1958 and the subsequent famine, Mao ordered educated young people to settle in the countryside. Fifteen-year-old Gao and her middle-school classmates were sent to help the peasants bring in the harvest at a primitive commune with no toilets and only hay to sleep on. When students were again ordered to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, Gao’s memories of these ghastly conditions prompted her to join the army medical corps instead. There, needing a skeleton for instruction, her superiors exhumed a body, rendered the flesh, and tossed the remains to wild dogs. Like millions of other Chinese, Gao was betrayed by a family member during the Cultural Revolution; her embittered elder sister passed on to the authorities letters that included complaints about her situation. Gao was dismissed from the army, but her knowledge of English helped her find other work. An abusive husband and a volatile political climate continued to make life difficult, and she suffered a brief imprisonment as well, but Gao was determined to prevail over her troubles. Almost miraculously, she did.

An authentic survivor’s story, more disturbing and awe-inspiring than any TV reality show.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-58567-362-5

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

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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