A deft portrait of the Washington team, building a life together and, eventually, a new nation.

THE GENERAL AND MRS. WASHINGTON

THE UNTOLD STORY OF A MARRIAGE AND A REVOLUTION

At home with George and Martha, America’s first First Family.

Shortly before her death, Martha Washington (1731–1802) extinguished any hope of a definitive assessment of her marriage and family life by burning the decades-long correspondence between her and her husband. This historians’ tragedy forces Chadwick (The First American Army, 2005, etc.) to draw mainly from the observations of contemporaries to examine the dynamic between a husband and wife who together dominated the 18th-century American stage. Having already achieved a small measure of military fame, the land-poor Colonel Washington (1732–99) married the wealthy widow Martha Custis in 1759, taking custody of her two surviving children, Patsy and Jack, and eventually her grandchildren, Nelly and Wash. While it briefly charts the troubled lives of the Custis offspring, the story focuses on the principals. George was tall and muscular; Martha was short and plump. He was ferociously ambitious; she was content to be the wife of a Virginia planter. He was a clothes horse; she favored the plain and simple. He was famously aloof; she was delightfully gregarious. He was strict with the kids; she was hopelessly indulgent. Both had a deep appreciation and admiration for the other, an abiding sense of duty and a keen understanding of their official roles, carefully attending to the details of their domestic and public lives. Intended for the general reader, Chadwick’s brisk narrative comes as close as we are likely to get to an understanding of the Washington union, but the book works best when assessing the impressive impact of the First Couple on an ever-widening audience. Washington used the word “family” variously to include his slaves at Mt. Vernon, his staff in the army, his presidential cabinet and, eventually, all his fellow citizens. No special need to recount the legacy of the father of our country, but Martha, too, played an important, underappreciated role in ministering to these extended families, a contribution well recognized here.

A deft portrait of the Washington team, building a life together and, eventually, a new nation.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2006

ISBN: 1-4022-0695-X

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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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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