Rich portraits of the sisters—and of the constraints and rewards of Victorian life. (b&w photos, not seen)

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FANNY & ADELAIDE

THE LIVES OF THE REMARKABLE KEMBLE SISTERS

Colorful adventures of two scions of a 19th-century English theatrical family.

Actress Fanny Kemble and her sister, Adelaide (a well-known opera singer), were the daughters of Charles Kemble, who helped launch London’s Covent Garden Theater. The legendary actress Sarah Siddons was their aunt. Although Fanny’s life has been much written about, her sister’s adventures are less famous. With Adelaide’s newly public letters as a basis, Blainey (Immortal Boy, not reviewed) has framed this story as a tale of two sisters whose lives were the stuff of the rousing melodramas popular during their lifetimes. Fanny, forced onto the stage to support her father’s failing enterprises, gave up the love of her life. She became a star in London and in America, where she again found love (or, at least, mighty sexual chemistry) with a Southern slave owner, Pierce Butler. Married and forced to abandon her career as a result, she turned her excess energy to the cause of abolition and wrote and spoke on the subject in America and England. Her determined independence—and her husband’s extramarital affairs—led to a divorce in which she was forced to give up her beloved daughters. What to do after this but return to the theater? And, in fact, Fanny rebuilt a successful career as actress and author, best known for her journal of life on a pre–Civil War plantation. Although more discreet than her sister, Adelaide’s adventures were no less notable. She, too, surrendered the love of her life to forge a singing career in England and on the Continent. After her marriage to the son of an Italian banker she shone as a hostess, and her musicales and at-homes drew famous authors, artists, and musicians (including Robert Browning, Henry James, Frederic Leighton, and Felix Mendelssohn). Fanny was challenging and abrasive, Adelaide serene and thoughtful, but both suffered mightily (as only Victorians could) at the necessity to choose between dutiful matrimony and exciting careers.

Rich portraits of the sisters—and of the constraints and rewards of Victorian life. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 8, 2001

ISBN: 1-56663-372-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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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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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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