Engaging profiles of women who found metaphorical rooms of their own in interwar London.

SQUARE HAUNTING

FIVE WRITERS IN LONDON BETWEEN THE WARS

A group portrait of five celebrated female writers who declined to ride shotgun for the men who drove British literary life from World War I through 1940.

Debut author Wade, who edits the London-based White Review, puts a new spin on the old idea of topographical resonance—the belief that you are what you inhabit—in a book about trailblazing women who lived on Mecklenburgh Square in Bloomsbury at times that occasionally overlapped. The author uses Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own as a touchstone for the social and intellectual equality her subjects craved when they moved to the square, drawn partly by its cheap rents and proximity to the British Museum. Economic historian Eileen Power, one of them, scoffed at the idea that “the ideal wife should endeavor to model herself upon a judicious mixture of a cow, a muffler, a shadow, a mirror,” a variation on a sentiment that others in the book seemed broadly to share, if they expressed it less bluntly. The poet H.D. briefly shared her flat with D.H. Lawrence and his wife, Frieda. The detective novelist Dorothy Sayers wrote her first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery in Mecklenburgh Square, five years before the arrival of the intrepid classicist Jane Harrison, who visited ancient ruins and smoked a pipe on the steps of the Parthenon. The unlucky Woolf moved in a year before the first bombs fell on London and, after an explosion destroyed her house, found “mushrooms sprouting on the carpets.” At times, Wade overreaches or strains to link the women, most of whom weren’t friends: Each, she writes, “sought to reinvent her life” in the square, a brute-force cliché at odds with her subjects’ more original thinking. But the author has a jeweler’s eye for sparkling anecdotes, and Bloomsbury ultimately emerges as far more than an anchorage for bohemians who “lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles.”

Engaging profiles of women who found metaphorical rooms of their own in interwar London.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-451-49779-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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

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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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