A solid reference and affectionate remembrance, but a rather toothless biography.

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HIGH SOCIETY

THE LIFE OF GRACE KELLY

Veteran celebrity biographer Spoto (Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies, 2008, etc.) capitalizes on his personal friendship with actress and honest-to-goodness princess Grace Kelly (1929–1982) to create an affectionate, informative, though somewhat bland account of the screen icon’s life.

Kelly was born into a well-established, wealthy Philadelphia family and enjoyed the privileged upbringing typical for a girl of her class, though she suffered from a lifelong sense of alienation from her success-oriented father and her cold, disapproving mother. With her unforgettable patrician good looks, Kelly found instant success as a model and quickly made a name for herself on the Broadway stage, abetted by such influential family members such as her uncle, playwright George Kelly. Hollywood beckoned, and Kelly made a handful of classic films, including The Country Girl (1954), for which she won an Academy Award; the musical High Society (1956), co-starring Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby; and three pictures with the legendary Alfred Hitchcock: Dial M for Murder, Rear Window (both 1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). Spoto is particularly interested in the relationship between Hitchcock and his muse, a fraught collaboration complicated by the director’s possessive, unrequited passion for the beautiful actress. Kelly famously left show business to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco, where she devoted the balance of her short life to raising her children and to matters of state. Spoto identifies Kelly’s fresh, affectless acting style as the key to her cinematic appeal, and goes on at length about her aptitude for “high comedy,” which evidently consists of polite farce free of vulgarity or unpleasantness. The author, a meticulous writer, is guilty of placing Kelly on a pedestal, much as her character is damagingly “worshipped” in High Society. Instead of digging for new or surprising insights into her work or persona, Spoto repeatedly praises Kelly’s fine spirit and refutes the claims of the actress’s rumored promiscuousness.

A solid reference and affectionate remembrance, but a rather toothless biography.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-39561-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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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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