Sure-footed and evenhanded.

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EDWARD VI

THE LOST KING OF ENGLAND

An impressive debut chronicling the brief life of the young man dubbed “the forgotten prince.”

Edward VI was the long-awaited heir of Henry VIII and his third wife, the dutiful Jane Seymour. Only nine when his father died, the boy could have been swamped in the complex postmortem court intrigues, lucidly delineated by Oxford-educated Skidmore. Instead, Edward carried the day against those who sought to proscribe his powers, and even the most casual gossipmongers were punished swiftly and decisively during his short era of primacy. The author sorts through the many attempts at sedition, treachery and treasonous activities (some real, some imagined) that characterized this period of English history, collecting disparate accounts and correspondences (some carried on in secret) to form a slow accretion of detail that provides a highly entertaining read. Skidmore is faithful to the mood of the day, careful to recreate the atmosphere of a society in which only the sovereign’s life had much value. “One man,” he notes, “had his ear nailed to the pillory for [erroneously] declaring Edward dead,” while another citizen had both ears cut off before being forced to wear a paper hat decrying his crimes: “LEWD AND SEDITIOUS WORDS TOUCHING THE KING’S MAJESTY AND THE STATE.” Gravely ill with consumption and cognizant that his own death was close at hand, young Edward made a series of decisions that would have lasting ramifications for the monarchs who followed in his wake. He nearly provoked civil war with his attempt to defy Henry’s will and pass the throne to another committed Protestant rather than his Catholic sister Mary. Skidmore occasionally lapses into lamentably stilted prose: “gone to victual” is employed with nary a trace of irony, and “whilst” is almost comically overused throughout. Still, the author’s access to a wide collection of royal papers and period sources ultimately renders this biography of an underexamined and important link in the Tudor dynasty an unqualified success.

Sure-footed and evenhanded.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-35142-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2007

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Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

THE MAN IN THE RED COAT

A fresh, urbane history of the dramatic and melodramatic belle epoque.

When Barnes (The Only Story, 2018, etc.), winner of the Man Booker Prize and many other literary awards, first saw John Singer Sargent’s striking portrait of Dr. Samuel Pozzi—handsome, “virile, yet slender,” dressed in a sumptuous scarlet coat—he was intrigued by a figure he had not yet encountered in his readings about 19th-century France. The wall label revealed that Pozzi was a gynecologist; a magazine article called him “not only the father of French gynecology, but also a confirmed sex addict who routinely attempted to seduce his female patients.” The paradox of healer and exploiter posed an alluring mystery that Barnes was eager to investigate. Pozzi, he discovered, succeeded in his amorous affairs as much as in his acclaimed career. “I have never met a man as seductive as Pozzi,” the arrogant Count Robert de Montesquiou recalled; Pozzi was a “man of rare good sense and rare good taste,” “filled with knowledge and purpose” as well as “grace and charm.” The author’s portrait, as admiring as Sargent’s, depicts a “hospitable, generous” man, “rich by marriage, clubbable, inquisitive, cultured and well travelled,” and brilliant. The cosmopolitan Pozzi, his supercilious friend Montesquiou, and “gentle, whimsical” Edmond de Polignac are central characters in Barnes’ irreverent, gossipy, sparkling history of the belle epoque, “a time of vast wealth for the wealthy, of social power for the aristocracy, of uncontrolled and intricate snobbery, of headlong colonial ambition, of artistic patronage, and of duels whose scale of violence often reflected personal irascibility more than offended honor.” Dueling, writes the author, “was not just the highest form of sport, it also required the highest form of manliness.” Barnes peoples his history with a spirited cast of characters, including Sargent and Whistler, Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt (who adored Pozzi), Henry James and Proust, Pozzi’s diarist daughter, Catherine, and unhappy wife, Therese, and scores more.

Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65877-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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