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From novelist-turned-historian Carr (Casing the Promised Land, 1979), a thorough but plodding biography of American soldier-of- fortune Frederick Townsend Ward. During the 1860's, Ward's brief but meteoric career in the service of the Chinese emperor gave him exceptional influence and status in a society largely closed to foreigners. Ward first appears as a capable mate on American clipper ships engaging in the brisk China trade, with little other than his boldness to suggest the generalissimo of the Ch'ing dynasty he was to become in its protracted struggle against the Taiping Rebellion (1851-64). Taking advantage of Chinese fears in the treaty port of Shanghai, Ward raised a company of foreign irregulars, trained them speedily, and threw them into battle—with less-than-inspiring results. Suffering a bloody rout in an assault on a rebel-held city close to Shanghai, he quickly changed tactics, recruiting Chinese for his main force and closely drilling them in Western methods so that within months he enjoyed a string of successes, becoming known internationally as the brilliant commander of the Ever Victorious Army. His exploits became the stuff of legend, and by the time he fell mortally wounded in battle in September 1862, his place in Chinese military history was assured. Carr, meticulous and scholarly throughout, debunks myths as much as possible given the scant information that survives about Ward, but fails to rise above his sources to provide a compelling account. Solid under the circumstances, but disappointing given Ward's persona and his incredible feats: less the measure of the man than a colorless reassembling of his deeds. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 1991

ISBN: 0-87113-462-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1991

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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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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

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