THE FINAL YEARS, 1885-1893

The third and concluding volume of Brown's monumental study (1983, 1986) of the Russian composer—which combines detailed musicological analysis (including generous excerpts from scores) with thorough, if not especially penetrating, life-history. As Brown himself says, ``it is a paradox of the professional man's biography that its externals can become less interesting as its subject's distinction and fame grow.'' So it is here: much of this undramatic book chronicles Tchaikovsky's late-blooming conducting career and his many tours. Even more space is devoted to critiques of the operas The Queen of Spades and Iolantha; the ballets Sleeping Beauty (which Brown finds profound as well as beautiful) and The Nutcracker (which Brown clearly loathes); and the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the former a ``compromise'' between Russian soul and Western form, the latter an uncompromising triumph, ``surely the most truly original symphony to have been composed'' since Beethoven's Ninth. Throughout, Brown is properly cautious—but not unimaginative—about finding autobiography in the music. The composer's homosexuality is mentioned occasionally, matter-of-factly, downplayed (to a fault, perhaps) rather than overplayed as in last fall's speculative biography by Alexander Poznansky. And, as for Tchaikovsky's death, Brown finds suicide the ``inescapable conclusion.'' Not the last word, of course: glasnost is likely to open up previously closed Tchaikovsky archives. But, for now, a solid windup to the critical biography for serious students and knowledgeable music-lovers.

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-393-03099-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1992

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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