An unsettling narrative of “business as usual” gone awry, and a timely warning for post–Cold War optimists.

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TORPEDOED

AN AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN’S TRUE STORY OF SECRETS, BETRAYAL, IMPRISONMENT IN RUSSIA, AND THE BATTLE TO SET HIM FREE

A retired American naval intelligence officer chronicles his detention, trial, and conviction for espionage in Russia.

Like many businessmen who went prospecting for opportunities in the wilds of post-Communist Russia, Pope was pursuing a wide variety of semi-promising technologies while steering clear of still-classified projects. He succinctly depicts the nature of business in the new Russia: “Honesty, truthfulness, fair dealings . . . to Russians these are unfamiliar and ineffectual business practices.” Thus, it was hardly surprising when the FSB (the KGB’s still-feared successor) detained Pope for interrogation regarding his interest in the propulsion system of the Shkval torpedo. Although Pope protested that these pursuits were legitimate, the FSB focused on his earlier career with naval intelligence as proof he was a spy in their midst. Worse, the State Department and Pope’s employer, Penn State, virtually disowned him following his arrest, which seemingly emboldened his captors. Eventually, due to intense pressure from his devoted wife Cheri and a few stalwart connections in science and the military, a nonbinding House of Representatives resolution censured Russia for the prosecution, and then-President Clinton lobbied on Pope’s behalf with incoming Russian Federation President Putin, who insisted that Russia’s judicial process must proceed. As his trial slowly continued, Pope deduced that his prosecution was emblematic of a spy mania sweeping the shaky Russian society; many believed it was part of ex-KGB spymaster Putin’s campaign to roll back Yeltsin-era civil liberties. Putin ultimately pardoned Pope, who had spent 253 days in jail. He exhibits empathy for his cellmates (including some likely FSB plants), for others ensnared in the Russian criminal justice system, and for ordinary Russians. But he is not optimistic about the nation’s prospects, noting in conclusion that “Putin and his minions are combining the worst aspects of Communism with the worst aspects of Fascism.”

An unsettling narrative of “business as usual” gone awry, and a timely warning for post–Cold War optimists.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-316-34873-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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