An unsentimental yet affecting memoir.



An award-winning journalist’s account of how she came to terms with the accidental drowning death of her beloved companion and father of her two children.

When Aitkenhead met Tony, she was a successful writer for the Guardian who had grown up with two bohemian parents. He was a charming mixed-race crack addict who “wholesaled cocaine for a living” and smelled of “designer cologne and cannabis.” Both were married, but in time, they developed a powerful attraction to each other and left their respective spouses to become “the most implausible couple I had ever known.” Their challenging but ultimately happy union came to a tragic end 10 years later on a beach in Jamaica where Tony died trying to save their small son from drowning. Aitkenhead remembers her partner—who defied all stereotypes of a street-hustling gangster—with deep affection. “Although a criminal, he was trustworthy and surprisingly guileless,” she writes, and had a “deep hippy streak” that manifested in a love of camping, cooking, and children. A few years into their relationship, the author discovered that she was pregnant and left Tony out of fear for what his crack habit would do to their child. Unwilling to lose her, Tony immediately joined a Cocaine Anonymous group and ended all crack use. He embraced his role as father and later as a charity worker who helped “desperately dispossessed children” from dysfunctional households. With Aitkenhead’s encouragement, Tony went to college and earned a degree in psychology and criminology. That she and her partner were able to learn from each other and work through their race and class differences to form a cohesive family unit makes the book memorable. But in the end, it is the author’s resilience after her lover’s death—which she describes with poised eloquence—that renders the narrative especially satisfying.

An unsentimental yet affecting memoir.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-54065-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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 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...


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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