What the two women had in common was their writing talent, strength, and dedication to the fight for women’s education and...

ROMANTIC OUTLAWS

THE EXTRAORDINARY LIVES OF MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT AND HER DAUGHTER MARY SHELLEY

Gordon (English/Endicott Coll.; The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths, 2007) delivers a drama-filled dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) and her daughter, Mary Shelley (1797-1851).

In an occasionally confusing style featuring alternating chapters, the author’s biographies of the two Marys show how different their lives were. The daughter of an alcoholic father, Wollstonecraft grew up constantly trying to protect her mother and siblings, circumstances that led her into a lifelong fight for independence and female rights and against marriage. Her publisher, Joseph Johnson, gave her a position as a book reviewer for his monthly Analytical Review, where only initials indicated the author, masking her gender. Johnson eventually sent her to Paris to write about the Revolution, and she became the first foreign correspondent and an unwed mother to boot. Her political writing, especially A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), was highly regardedShe eventually married William Godwin, a political writer with an equally dim view of marriage. Their marriage was happy but short, and Mary died giving birth to her daughter, who spent her life idolizing and emulating her mother. At 16, Mary and her half sister, Jane, ran away to France with Percy Shelley; the only poorer choice would have been his dear friend, Lord Byron. Together, society termed them the “League of Incest.” Mary and Jane vied for Shelley’s attention; Jane eventually had Byron’s child, and polite society shunned them. Mary and Percy eventually married, in hopes of gaining custody of his children from a previous marriage. The widowed Mary successfully carried on her mother’s work, not through political writing but in novels.

What the two women had in common was their writing talent, strength, and dedication to the fight for women’s education and rights. While Gordon tells their stories well, moving back and forth between the Marys can be perplexing.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6842-5

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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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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