Moyle writes that young Turner was “an instinctive and tireless networker, massively self-motivated, undeterrable in his...

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TURNER

THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE AND MOMENTOUS TIMES OF J.M.W. TURNER

He was the finest landscape painter of his time, and he knew it. This new biography explains why.

J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) painted the sunrise over Norham Castle with as much invention as he depicted sea battles, moments in British history, and Welsh villagers struggling to get piglets into a boat in choppy shallows. Born to a barber and wig-maker, Turner became one of the youngest ever Academicians at London’s Royal Academy and was so beloved by John Ruskin that the eminent art critic cataloged all 30,000 of the artist’s works (including, to Ruskin’s surprise, erotic drawings) after Turner’s death. Like all good storytellers, Moyle (Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde, 2012, etc.) begins with high drama: Turner’s death in a state of “moral degradation” in a neighborhood of Chelsea. From there, she returns to Turner’s Covent Garden youth and chronicles his successes and failures. This is a popular rather than scholarly work, light on technical analysis but heavy on scenes from Turner’s life. Moyle does highlight Turner’s technical innovations, including his experiments with backlit paintings and scioptic balls (“a kind of early wide-angle or fish-eye lens” used to create panoramic views), and she describes well such iconic paintings as The Battle of Trafalgar and The Fighting Temeraire. Her focus, however, is on personal stories: Turner’s relationship with the widow Sarah Danby, with whom he fathered two daughters; his mother’s incarceration in a mental asylum; and his controversial investment in the Dry Sugar Work near Spanish Town in Jamaica, “a cattle farm that depended on slavery for its labour.” Throughout, the author enlivens her tale with perfect details, as when undertakers bringing Turner’s large, expensive coffin to his Chelsea home can’t get the casket through the door.

Moyle writes that young Turner was “an instinctive and tireless networker, massively self-motivated, undeterrable in his determination.” This excellent biography shows the benefits, and the pitfalls, of such single-minded obsession.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2092-8

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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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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