Like Elisabeth Kehoe’s The Titled Americans (2004), Higham’s account is too worshipful for comfort; it lacks the steel of...

DARK LADY

WINSTON CHURCHILL’S MOTHER AND HER WORLD

An admiring life of Jennie Jerome (1854–1921), Winston Churchill’s aristocratic mother.

Jennie was born into a family better fit to the Gilded Age decades later; her father was a speculator, even a swindler, who constantly cycled between boom and bust, riches and ruin. “Insecurity,” Higham (Murder in Hollywood, 2004, etc.) writes portentously, “was the very air she breathed.” You would not know it when the young adult, beautiful and clearly wealthy, arrived in England by way of France to conquer high society. There she met the son of the Duke of Marlborough, a weedy 24-year-old who “had not the musculature of most men of his age” but who carried himself with the proper nobility. “Jennie,” Higham gushes, “was captivated as completely as any heroine of the French romantic novels popular during her years in Paris.” The resulting romance was quick—so quick, the author whispers, that Winston Churchill may well have been conceived out of wedlock. Jennie and Randolph moved into a fixer-upper mansion and fell into the usual intrigues, most of them involving various sorts of odd sexual practices and serial adulteries. Higham’s narrative finds the young couple plotting to blackmail the Princess of Wales here, spending themselves into near-bankruptcy there, and always seeking to accumulate influence and power. In this endeavor, Jennie seems to have been the more successful of the two; Higham credits her with bringing Burma into the British Empire, for which efforts Jennie, with Randolph at once secretary of state and “a useless playboy,” was awarded the Order of the Crown of India. Jennie becomes somewhat more interesting once Randolph dies; Higham traces his decline to a neurological disorder, not the old canard of syphilis.

Like Elisabeth Kehoe’s The Titled Americans (2004), Higham’s account is too worshipful for comfort; it lacks the steel of biographies devoted to Jennie’s famous son, and it could use it.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2007

ISBN: 0-7867-1889-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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