At age 89, the author may be slowing down a trifle, but the best parts here are as bracing and engaging as anything she’s...


In her first post-Nobel book, Lessing (The Cleft, 2007, etc.) imagines what her parents’ life—and England—would have been like if World War I had never happened.

That’s the premise of the shrewd novella that comprises the most interesting half of this slightly scattershot assemblage. In real life, Emily McVeagh and Alfred Tayler met as nurse and gravely wounded soldier in a London hospital, married and settled in Rhodesia, where Lessing and her brother were raised while the Taylers tried to carve a good living from a colonial outpost that wasn’t at all what they expected. (A bracing nonfiction section following the novella delves into that.) In “Alfred and Emily,” they come from the same small English town, but he stays there to become a prosperous farmer while she defies her father’s wishes to train as a nurse in London. She marries a prominent doctor (unhappily); he marries a warm, comforting woman beloved by his drunken best mate nearly as much as by Alfred. Without the traumatizing World War, England remains affluent and comfortable, but also class-divided and stagnant; Lessing’s taste for discomfiting truths is as evident as ever. The diverse pieces that follow have their ups and downs. The material about her parents will be familiar in its broad strokes to anyone who read Lessing’s autobiography (Under My Skin, 1994, and Walking in the Shade, 1997), but it forms a pointed and instructive counterbalance to the novella. A few shorter, more casual pieces (“Insects,” “Provisions,” Servant Problems,” etc.) don’t add much to what Lessing has written before about Africa, but “My Brother Harry Tayler” gives the author a chance to expatiate on her sibling, her own children and the end of white rule in Rhodesia with an acuity all the more impressive since it requires barely eight pages.

At age 89, the author may be slowing down a trifle, but the best parts here are as bracing and engaging as anything she’s written in the past 30 years.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-083488-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

Did you like this book?