A tour de force of research from the Russian archives, the book is a deeply detailed, occasionally plodding biography of one...

RASPUTIN

FAITH, POWER, AND THE TWILIGHT OF THE ROMANOVS

On the centenary of his death, a vigorous attempt to penetrate the monstrous myths surrounding Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin (1869-1916).

A historian and translator concentrating on Russian history, Smith (Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy, 2012, etc.) grapples with the legend that grew around Rasputin during his life and after his death. In this massive, winding journey, the author essentially concedes that Rasputin’s mythmaking after his gruesome murder in December 1916 by political intimates has become more important that the actual events—and most are disputed. The public excoriation of this “simple” devout Christian peasant from Siberia, who nonetheless had the ear of the Romanov dynasty, became the key to undermining the indecisive, rudderless leadership of Czar Nicholas himself. Rasputin was illiterate until his adulthood, facing a life as a hardscrabble farmer, fond of the bottle, married at age 18 to Praskovya, a woman devoted to him and the mother of his children. He was like most Russian souls at the time, “keeping the eternal rhythm of peasant life in motion.” Yet he was restless and touched by a religious vision; he set off on pilgrimages in his late 20s to become a “holy seeker,” a spiritual awakening that the author describes as certainly sincere. Further along in this overly long narrative, Smith shows how Rasputin’s fame as a “starets” (a kind of captivating pious elder) spread and the circles of his acquaintances grew ever wider, encompassing the aristocracy and the court of Nicholas and Alexandra. The royal couple desperately needed him to direct the tumultuous country and heal their hemophiliac son. Smith demonstrates how gradually the mystic lost his way in the flashy capital of St. Petersburg and was corrupted by the rapture he inspired. At the same time, he preached the importance of disdaining wealth and status to his numerous devotees, especially wives and widows.

A tour de force of research from the Russian archives, the book is a deeply detailed, occasionally plodding biography of one of history’s most malleable characters.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-24084-4

Page Count: 832

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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

Did you like this book?

more