An insightful contribution to women’s history.

The circumscribed paths of women’s lives emerge from a deeply researched history.

Kerrison (History/Villanova Univ.; Claiming the Pen: Women and Intellectual Life in the Early American South, 2005) illuminates women’s experiences in early America through the lives of Thomas Jefferson’s three daughters: Martha and Maria, his children by his wife, and Harriet Hemings, the offspring—one of four surviving children—of his relationship with the slave Sally Hemings. As the author acknowledges, Jefferson’s long affair with Hemings has been well-documented by Annette Gordon-Reed and Monticello historian Lucia Stanton. Kerrison draws from those works as well as abundant historical and archival sources to portray “the benefits and perils” of each daughter’s experiences. Jefferson’s enlightened ideas about education extended only to men. He saw little use in educating females, who were not permitted entrance to the University of Virginia, which he founded. After her mother died, Martha accompanied Jefferson to Paris, attended a convent school, learned to speak French fluently, and absorbed France’s antipathy to slavery. Still, like her sister, she was expected to embrace “the life of wife, mother, and plantation mistress”—including overseeing slaves—tasks that proved, “after Paris, a trial so arduous as to require heroism to be endured.” While Martha was in France, the younger Maria was left behind with relatives; “her peripatetic childhood” was marked “by only brief periods of loving stability that came to sudden unannounced ends.” Even after Jefferson returned to America, his political obligations kept him away from the family’s home. Kerrison discovered more sources to document Martha’s life than Maria’s: a talented amateur pianist, Maria died in childbirth at 25, barely a memory for her surviving son. Martha lived into her 60s, keeper of family papers. But the author’s greatest challenge was finding evidence of Harriet’s life, both at Monticello and later, when she left Virginia and, passing as white, probably lived the rest of her life in Washington, D.C. Despite Kerrison’s dogged and thoroughly detailed detective work, Harriet’s life remains a mystery.

An insightful contribution to women’s history.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-88624-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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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