While the disaster makes for some spellbinding reading, Knecht’s treatment of what prompted the sailors to take to the seas...

THE PROVING GROUND

An account of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race debacle, this one focusing on three of the participants, from Wall Street Journal correspondent Knecht.

Anyone who sails across the Bass Strait from Sydney, Australia, to Hobart, Tasmania, will come up against some of the nastiest blue water on the globe. The annual race that has run this course for the last half-century is famously plagued by particularly cruel weather that comes in intervals of seven years—and 1998 lived up to its seventh-year billing by throwing the worst storm ever upon the contestants. Severe storm warnings were posted before and during the early hours of the event, but no one expected the 100-foot waves brought about by a handful of mad and convergent weather systems. Knecht concentrates the first half of his account on three of the participants (all of great wealth) who flew in the face of danger: Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Rob Kothe (a manufacturer of lifeline-throwing guns), and retailer Richard Winning. Although the author suggests that the men were variously “motivated by a kind of deeply rooted ambition that would never be satisfied,” possessed of an “abiding hunger for the kind of glory that winning the Hobart could bring,” or gnawed by a “sense that he was part of a generation that has never faced the kind of challenges that men should,” none of the reasons adequately explains why they would tempt such horrid fate (since the Bass Strait’s reputation was notorious). More commanding is Knecht’s handling of the storm-lashed hours at sea, as the crews of the three boats were pounded mercilessly—sailors were lost on both the Kothe and the Winning boats—while the heroic search-and-rescue squads pulled the lucky ones to safety.

While the disaster makes for some spellbinding reading, Knecht’s treatment of what prompted the sailors to take to the seas not only falls short, it falls prey to their macho swagger: “Such is love,” he quips of their mortally reckless behavior. (8 pp. b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 6, 2001

ISBN: 0-316-49955-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a...

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H IS FOR HAWK

An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief—with a goshawk.

Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life,” she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White’s, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White’s mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment.

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123411

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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