Journalist Solway (A Dance Against Time, 1994) performs a commendable research mission on behalf of the glamorous, troublesome late ballet star Rudolf Nureyev (1938—93). Though as narrator she’s almost too tenaciously conscientious to do justice to his bottomless flamboyance, the dancer’s less savory side (gay hustlers at midnight; jeweled jockstraps) perhaps speaks for itself. In some ways, the most interesting part of the book concerns Nureyev’s life as a child. Born aboard a Trans-Siberian Express train, he grew up a Tatar, descended from Genghis Khan, in the Bashkir Autonomous Republic, with interruptions and stays in Moscow. War and penury beset his Muslim family: “Potatoes were the only staple.” The deprivations of his early life, and Nureyev’s difficult relationship with his taciturn and tyrannical father, may have bred his successive rebellions. Ballet was the most telling of these. Though he started training late and in some respects never could compensate in his technique for the lost time, Nureyev’s determination and remarkably feral allure onstage carried him through adversity at the Leningrad Ballet School and the Kirov Ballet to his celebrated 1961 defection to the West and subsequent decades of theatrical antiheroism. Not for nothing was The Catcher in the Rye one of his favorite books; “Rudimania” saluted a Holdenesque iconoclast in tights. Solway is dogged and diplomatic in pursuit of him. Though her appraisals of his dancing lack the flourish and authority of an insider critic, she passes equably through the turbulent stages of Nureyev’s career, offering apt secondary portraits of Margot Fonteyn, Erik Bruhn, and others. She is careful never to emphasize the tawdry or pathetic in Nureyev; he emerges as a desperate character who mistrusted banks and every other standard authority, who worked himself into unique extremes of exhaustion, and who failed to win the only real love of his life (Bruhn). So despite a few bandied clichÇs, Solway holds the stage. The sound and the fury, distilled. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 1998

ISBN: 0-688-12873-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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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...


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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