In their second biography of an alluring Parisian woman (Misia, 1980, was the first), Fizdale and the late Gold, both concert pianists, show their understanding of the heady artistic world of Paris from 1860 to 1923 and of the special character and needs of performing artists such as Sarah Bernhardt and her theatrical friends. A mercurial creature, living an assortment of roles, Bernhardt is largely known through her own untrustworthy memoirs, her passionate love letters—in which she admits she ``lives for love with fantasy as my guide''—and the opinions of her many distinguished critics and friends, including Hugo, Dumas, Cocteau, Twain, Shaw, Wilde, Freud, Zola, Proust, Henry James, Chekhov, and a whole array of supporting actresses, enemies, and admirers. Born an unwanted and illegitimate child, raised in a convent, initiated at age 16 into the world of the theater and the lucrative role of courtesan by her mother, she died in 1923 at age 78, the first international film star, a rich and charismatic figure acclaimed for her acting every major female role as well as Hamlet. A thin, small lady who suffered stage fright, she had a demonic temper and insatiable appetites for love, power (she came to manage and direct her own theater), companionship (traveling with a legendary entourage), adventure (flying over Paris in a balloon), and collecting everything from animals (she wore live chameleons pinned to her dress) to a skeleton she kept in her bedroom along with the silk-lined coffin in which she liked to learn her lines. Imperious, egotistical, Bernhardt was often selfless: She turned a theater into a hospital, encouraged Zola to champion Dreyfus, devoted herself to her son and his children, and married a Greek actor who became addicted to morphine. Profusely illustrated (50 b&w and eight color pages), full of the wit, gossip, and anecdote Bernhardt loved, this enjoyable book captures her style more than her essence. The newly published love letters alone are a treasure.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-52879-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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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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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...


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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