A TRAITOR'S KISS

THE LIFE OF RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN, 1751-1816

An astutely political and compellingly chronicled life of the man the prince of Wales described as “the most extraordinary creature alive.” Sheridan, hoping to be remembered for his radical political career in Parliament, had wished to be buried in Westminster next to his Whig colleague Charles Fox; instead, the author of The School for Scandal was interred next to David Garrick, his predecessor as manager of the Drury Lane Theatre. Unlike most Sheridan biographers, who tend to concentrate on the young and witty Anglo-Irish playwright and the later rake-hell drinking companion of the prince of Wales and Lord Byron, essayist and drama critic O’Toole (The Lie of the Land: Irish Identities, 1998) draws out the true character of the radical, patriotic Irishman from the public figure that Sheridan himself so carefully manipulated. Although Sheridan rose to the highest English social circles and lived in Britain his entire adult life, his cultural origins were both Protestant and Gaelic, with a literary and comic inheritance from Swift, his father’s friend. His romantic reputation, however, was entirely his own invention, beginning with his sensational elopement with the glamorous young singer Elizabeth Linley, through the two duels he fought with a rival for her and his play The Rivals, which capitalized on the incidents. Despite his phenomenal success as a playwright and his coup in taking control of Drury Lane, Sheridan, O’Toole argues, looked to literary fame only for launching his Parliamentary career. Portraying Sheridan as the most principled yet most mercurial of the Whigs, O’Toole deftly reads into the political messages hidden in The School for Scandal, the theatricality of his famous five-and-a-half-hour oration against British imperial abuses in India, and his career-long act as an outsider on the inside, consorting alike with Irish rebels and British royalty. Byron jokingly reminded Sheridan’s first biographer that “Old Sherry” was “an Irishman and clever fellow,” qualities O’Toole never understates in this superbly sympathetic life.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-27931-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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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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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