A fluid work of historical research and engaging biography.

An elegant study on the shaping of the first presidency through the excellent people he chose to serve with him.

The Heidlers (Henry Clay: The Essential American, 2010, etc.) create a fully fleshed portrait of the first great Founder by comparison to and contrast with the many complicated personalities he had around him. Summoned out of his happy retirement in Mount Vernon to preside as the first president of the fledgling American government, because, in the compelling words of former aide Alexander Hamilton, “a citizen of so much consequence as yourself…has no option but to lend his services if called for,” Washington was painfully aware of creating appropriate precedents. These included resisting a pompous title, not appointing his relatives to office, paying for his own personal comfort and maintaining a rather kingly formality. Washington was well-served by those loyal subordinates, including his wife, Martha, who burned all but four letters written between them, thus leaving little clue to their relationship aside from the fact that she provided a perfect, “stoic” complement to his gravity and taciturnity; his closest adviser and fellow Virginian James Madison, who helped Washington write his inaugural address and acted as the president’s “indispensable bridge between budding executive wishes and developing congressional policy”; the irrepressible John Adams, who was deadly bored by the office of vice president but cast the important deciding vote in the first Senate to allow presidential prerogative in choosing the Treasury secretary; and Hamilton, who would, by his sheer brilliant brazenness, wield ambitious economic plans for the new republic. Moving the capital from New York to Philadelphia, quelling sectional differences and confronting the first foreign policy crisis with England, Washington relied on a host of other unsung colleagues, including Henry Knox, Edmund Randolph and Tobias Lear.

A fluid work of historical research and engaging biography.

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6927-9

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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