CHARLES AT FIFTY

Yet another portrait of the British throne’s much-maligned heir, timed for His Royal Highness’s 50th birthday on November 14, from a top royal biographer who’s the author of several other books on Charles and Diana (Prince Charles, 1979, etc.). While Holden’s new portrait gives precedence to the prince’s private life, readers also get a fair overview of Charles’s various public initiatives, from the supervision of city planners and the founding of the ill-fated Institute of Architecture to his attack on the conventional medical establishment. Despite the author’s dry and often ironic tone, what he reveals about the prince’s endorsement of organic farming, vegetarianism, holistic healing, and environmental protection resonates with numerous concerns relevant for 1990s readers. Holden attributes Charles’s inability to express affection—the trait that was the cause of much pain to his late wife—to a childhood devoid of emotional contact with his parents: The prim and prudish Elizabeth II always valued public duty more than her maternal responsibilities. As a result, in one famous instance, Charles insisted on attending a Royal Opera House concert while his son William underwent surgery; the more motherly Diana kept vigil at the boy’s hospital bedside. Overall, Holden’s criticisms of the British royalty echo the recent mood of British taxpayers, tired of supporting an expensive monarchy that has lost even its symbolic status as the guardian of national moral and religious values. Charles’s adulterous relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles is one focus of the book; so are other royal sex scandals. Without taking sides, Holden portrays Diana sympathetically but also as a manipulator of public opinion and a master of intrigue. He credits the princess, nevertheless, with reforming the now-ever-so-slightly-more-human royal family. Replete with quotes from anonymous confidants and sundry royal “lunch guests,” Holden’s opus will find favor with all lovers of the never-ending Windsor soap opera. (32 pages color and b&w photos) (Radio and TV satellite tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-375-50175-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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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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