LINCOLN

In a significant contribution to Lincoln scholarship, distinguished historian and Pulitzer Prizewinning biographer Donald (Harvard; Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe, 1987, etc.) draws a richly detailed, absorbing portrait of our 16th president. The Lincoln that Donald gives us is an inexperienced, ill- prepared, and essentially passive man who nonetheless quickly grew into greatness as president during the nation's worst crisis. Lincoln, Donald argues, was by temperament and philosophy fatalistic and reactive, with a lifelong belief in the Doctrine of Necessity (human destiny controlled by a higher power) that finds expression in his assertion that ``the Almighty has His own purposes.'' Nonetheless, Lincoln was from childhood insatiably ambitious. Donald deftly traces Lincoln's rise from his hardscrabble frontier beginnings through his growth into an important local legislator and lawyer. Although Lincoln, a conservative Whig and devotee of Henry Clay, was for many years as unsuccessful as a politician as he was wealthy and prominent as an attorney, Lincoln's brilliant debating performance in his 1858 Senate race against Stephen A. Douglas catapulted him to national renown in the infant Republican party. Donald devotes most of his account to the story of Lincoln as war presidenthis at first inept, and gradually more skillful, stewardship of the armies, diplomacy, and other national affairs during the Civil Warthrough his assassination. Donald makes his case for his subject's passivity. However, Lincoln emerges as a chief executive who, with steadfastness of purpose and constant humor, resisted political pressures and personal attack from Democrats and Republicans alike, made bold decisions, and, although flexibly pragmatic about means, remained faithful to his inner vision of popular government and indissoluble union. A magisterial work, destined to assume its place with those of Beveridge, Sandburg, Thomas, and Oates as a standard life of Lincoln. (Book-of-the-Month Club split main selection; History Book Club main selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-684-80846-3

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1995

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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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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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