An intimate, deeply engaging method of following historic events.



Historical ramble through the Revolutionary era via middle sister and intermediary Abigail Adams (1744–1818), who married best.

The three Smith sisters of Weymouth, Mass., were inseparable growing up under their minister father and thrifty, charitable mother, and they were remarkably well-educated, as demonstrated by the copious, frequent letters they exchanged throughout their long lives. Liberally excerpted by Jacobs (Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft, 2001, etc.), the letters allow readers to plunge into the voices and milieus of these lively characters, who nonetheless were relegated to the sidelines, observing the great events of the new nation unfold while their husbands got to strut about the stage—underscoring how important it was to marry well. Mary, the oldest sister, caught the interest of the girls’ tutor, Richard Cranch, due to her “intelligence—not to mention her beauty and goodness,” and “their passion quickened as he took it upon himself to initiate all three young women into the pleasures of Enlightenment philosophy, epistolary novels, Milton, Pope, Shakespeare, and also some French.” However, Cranch did not pan out well as a scholarly fabricator and farmer, relegating Mary to a life of much scrimping, drudgery and childbearing. Youngest sister Elizabeth, of “keen sensibility and high spirits,” was fairly beaten down by her marriage to drunkard Calvinist John Shaw. Abigail, in contrast, married the imperious fireball John Adams, not exactly handsome but brilliant and ironically humorous and with wit to match Abigail’s own; her feminist writing, both to husband and sisters, crackles off the page. Readers will cheer when she is finally goaded out of her enforced provincialism by the need to join her husband in his diplomatic mission to Paris in 1784.

An intimate, deeply engaging method of following historic events.

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-46506-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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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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