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An account of an extraordinary life, marred by excessive angst.

A former actress struggles with a bout of spiritual ennui in this memoir. 

Lewis (Between Men, 1995) had a life that most people would envy: she was married to a successful movie producer; enjoyed glamorous careers as an actress, model, and writer; and traveled the globe. However, in 2004, when she was in her 50s, she was struck with regret and furious at the prospect that she had squandered her promise: “Is this it? Is this the life I meant myself to have?” She stumbled upon a book, The Unquiet Grave by the literary critic Cyril Connolly, and she related to his desire for a house in France; later, she was invited to visit an English friend of hers in the French countryside. While there, she fell in love with an old, dilapidated château and decided to buy it as a summer home and oversee its much-needed renovations. The author’s husband was incensed, she says, but he reluctantly paid most of the cost of the house and loaned her a substantial sum for the repairs. Lewis’ memoir jumps back and forth in time, recounting a life of youthful adventure as well as her struggle to superintend an exasperatingly complex construction project. She tells of growing up in England, attending school in France, and eventually becoming a model, a minor actress in mostly B movies, and finally, a serious writer. Along the way, she rubbed shoulders with plenty of celebrities, including Roman Polanski, with whom she says she had an affair, and Orson Welles. The author’s prose is refined and worldly, and she memorably and candidly provides keen insights into the decades she inhabited; for example, her libertine response to her discomfort over the 1960s sexual revolution doubles as astute social commentary. However, some readers may find it difficult to truly empathize with her existential torment, which, given the enormous privilege that she’s enjoyed, seems disconnected from real, abiding struggle. Her life story is a truly fascinating one, and readers may be tempted to wonder why it’s the source of so much frustration.

An account of an extraordinary life, marred by excessive angst. 

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68245-082-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Regan Arts

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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