A sympathetic introduction to a passionate and remarkable woman.

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HER OWN WOMAN

THE LIFE OF MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT

The life and times of the egotistical but extraordinary woman who challenged family and society to become the first modern feminist.

Mary Wollstonecraft’s famous polemic, Vindication of the Rights of Woman, was published at the height of the French Revolution (whose seminal Declaration of the Rights of Man did not necessarily include females). But her thesis had its roots in the frustrations of her English childhood and youth. Deprived of formal education and limited to jobs as teacher or companion, Wollstonecraft (1759–97) set on a course of self-education, reading Rousseau and Locke while other girls her age favored romantic novels. Jacobs (Christmas in July, 1992) brings fresh insight and detail to her story, thanks to a newly available correspondence that includes letters from her mentor and publisher, Joseph Johnson. The author takes a more tolerant view of Wollstonecraft’s self-centered personality, her inconsistencies, and even her two suicide attempts than Janet Todd displayed in the rather judgmental Mary Wollstonecraft (2000). She helped (some say forced) her sister to leave an abusive husband, and together they opened a school. Although the school failed, it launched Wollstonecraft’s writing career with Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, published by Johnson. Her ideas continued to develop and mature as news and discussion of the French Revolution filled the English press and Parliament. She wrote Vindication of the Rights of Woman in response to Edmund Burke’s critique of the Revolution. Eventually she found her way to France, where she lived through the Reign of Terror, wrote reports to England, took an American lover, and bore his child. Abandoned by Gilbert Imlay, she solidified a friendship with (and later married) the English philosopher William Godwin. She died bearing a second daughter, Mary, who would grow up to write the novel Frankenstein.

A sympathetic introduction to a passionate and remarkable woman.

Pub Date: May 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-684-81093-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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