A complex and uplifting tale.



A professor’s story of how he found and befriended an estranged member of his extended family, a Jewish woman his grandparents had adopted during World War II.

When van Es (English Literature/Univ. of Oxford; Shakespeare’s Comedies: A Very Short Introduction, 2016, etc.) returned to his native Holland to meet Lien, an elderly Jewish woman, he knew only that she had grown up with his father as an adopted sister. Later—and very mysteriously—she had received a letter from the author’s grandmother severing all connection to the family. Through correspondence and interviews, van Es learned that Lien’s mother sent her daughter to live among Christians willing to protect her from the Nazis. For a year and a half, she lived quietly, missing the parents she never saw again but loving her adopted family. When the van Es home was raided by local Dutch authorities, Lien fled. For more than a year, she moved from hiding place to hiding place, focused solely on surviving. Eventually, she made her way to central Holland, where she spent the next year living with the stern Van Laar family and getting raped by the brother of her adopted father. When she returned to the van Es family in 1945, she had become a brooding teenager. She appeared to grow out of her unhappiness, training first to become a social worker, and then marrying and having children. Yet her “perfect” life did not stop her from later trying to commit suicide. The author’s grandmother saw her behavior as selfish and put what would become a permanent distance between them. Unlike his grandmother, van Es saw that the trauma Lien endured had made her feel cut off from herself and Jewish heritage, like a “cut out” figure in someone else’s culture and life. Compassionate and thoughtfully rendered, the book is both a memorable portrait of a remarkable woman and a testament to the healing power of understanding.

A complex and uplifting tale.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2224-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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 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...


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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