The author’s wit and biting analysis render this a most readable study.

ISAAC AND ISAIAH

THE COVERT PUNISHMENT OF A COLD WAR HERETIC

What first appears to be a narrowly academic profile of two rival scholars amplifies into a trenchant, engaging study of the postwar split between the New Left and Western liberalism.

Historian Caute (Politics and the Novel During the Cold War, 2009, etc.) was privy to Isaiah Berlin’s attempts to blackball Isaac Deutscher from gaining an academic post in 1963, when the author and Berlin were both fellows at All Souls College, Oxford. In this sharply argued work, the author develops and clarifies their feud in light of Cold War attitudes. Both brilliant minds who hailed from Eastern European Jewish families and eventually took refuge in England from totalitarian violence, the two writers, journalists and historians made their way in British academia and publishing with remarkable success, though with vastly different ideological takes regarding the Soviet Union. As the Cold War ramped up, both became enormously in demand to delineate the struggle between the Soviet Union and the West. For Berlin, the notion of individual liberty and responsibility dispelled any illusions about Soviet reality and Marxist determinism, while Deutscher, whose formative years were spent as a member of the Polish Communist Party, was a well-connected Marxist whose deeply researched biographies of Stalin, Trotsky and Lenin were considered as helpful explanations to the West as well as apologies. Recognized as an international relations expert, Deutscher hoped to move from journalism to academia but was thwarted by Berlin, serving on the advisory board, who denounced his rival in confidential letters as being “morally intolerable.” Caute astutely probes the contentious issues, including concepts of history, Zionism and life for dissident writers in the Soviet Union.

The author’s wit and biting analysis render this a most readable study.

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-300-19209-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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

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BECOMING

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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