Reveals a livelier Liz: lovely, clever, wise, and—like all the other Tudors—possessed of the “besetting sin” of “rapacity.”...

ELIZABETH

THE STRUGGLE FOR THE THRONE

In brisk, bracing prose, a freelance historian follows England’s first Queen Elizabeth from birth to the early days of her reign.

Starkey (Henry VIII, not reviewed) develops the thesis that among the young queen’s principal virtues was “a sort of humanity” that distinguished her from most of her predecessors, including her own sister, “Bloody Mary” Tudor (who burned 300 religious opponents at the stake during her short reign). Starkey believes Elizabeth’s early life should read like “a historical thriller” and, at least until the final chapters (which focus on religion), succeeds admirably in breathing fresh life into one of England’s most overstudied monarchs. Unconventionally brief chapters (one consumes less than a page) explore Elizabeth’s family background and rise to the throne. Starkey sprints through the life and loves of her father, Henry VIII, consigning poor Cardinal Wolsey to a mere prepositional phrase and gliding through the fates of wives four through six in barely a page. Elizabeth, Starkey demonstrates, was an “infant phenomenon,” mastering Latin, French, and Italian (her Greek was less impressive), while absorbing vital lessons from the political intrigues swirling around her. After her father’s death and her consumptive half-brother Edward VI’s brief reign, sister Mary became queen, reestablished Catholicism as the religion of the land, married an unpopular Spaniard, failed to deliver an heir, and died miserably. Arguably Mary’s principal legacy was her decision to arrest rather than execute Elizabeth, who was patently a participant in several failed attempts to seize power. “The Tower made a good classroom,” quips Starkey, ending this fluid biography with the observation that Elizabeth’s decision to both hire and heed capable advisers was “crucial to the success of [her] government.” Alluding to Adrian Mole and Goldilocks, freely employing clichés (“like a duck to water”), and cracking wise (a “rolling stone gathers dross”), Starkey pens a light, even frisky historical narrative.

Reveals a livelier Liz: lovely, clever, wise, and—like all the other Tudors—possessed of the “besetting sin” of “rapacity.” (16 pp. color photos and illustrations)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-018497-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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