ELIZABETH I

Flattered, feared, idealized during her lifetime, romanticized ever since, the intensely private Elizabeth I left few accurate portraits for future painters or biographers. Somerset (Ladies in Waiting, 1984) wisely focuses on the queen's complex political life, documenting, largely from primary sources, the religious conflicts, wars, explorations, conspiracies, and rough justice that marked her reign of 45 years. The second daughter of Henry VIII (her mother, the second of six wives, was executed for adultery), Elizabeth came to the throne after the displacement of all her stepmothers and the death of her brother Edward and her sister ``Bloody'' Mary. Although she was excommunicated, she believed she was ``God's choice''—and with that confidence created a national church, revised coinage, sponsored exploration (Drake's circumnavigation of the globe), waged war against Spain, nearly subjugated the ``ungovernable'' Ireland, and strengthened the power of the throne. Pleasure-loving Elizabeth enjoyed dancing, bear-baiting, hunting, clothes (which became more bizarre as she aged), gardens, and ``progresses,'' leading the court on visits to noble houses—partly because the hygiene of her courtiers was so poor that an ``intolerable stench'' soon forced them to move on. She loved gifts, adulation, and the attention of young men, although she married none of them, using their admiration and pursuit as a source of power. Somerset claims that remaining a virgin was part of the queen's ``high calling.'' Meanwhile, her indecisiveness, irascible temper, and legitimate fear of being assassinated led to her imprisoning her cousin Mary for 19 years before, reluctantly, having her executed—although at other times she was capable of impulsive brutality, e.g., publicly cutting off the hand of a printer for criticizing one of her choices of a mate. Despite a few clichÇs (the ``air'' was ``thick with intrigue'') and an unnecessary defensiveness about Elizabeth's virginity: a clear, moving, informed narrative. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-54435-8

Page Count: 652

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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

Close Quickview