Though weighed down by excessive detail and infelicitous prose, it’s an entertaining yarn whose ending is yet to be written.

THE TSARINA'S LOST TREASURE

CATHERINE THE GREAT, A GOLDEN AGE MASTERPIECE, AND A LEGENDARY SHIPWRECK

The story of a 1771 shipwreck off the coast of Finland that contained Dutch masterpieces bound for Catherine the Great.

Gerrit Dou (1613-1675) was one of the most prominent artists of the Dutch golden age. An apprentice to Rembrandt, he eventually surpassed his teacher in fame and wealth. Over the centuries, however, Dou’s reputation has shifted repeatedly with the tides of fashion in the arts. His story makes up one strand of this mostly engaging new book by Easter and Vorhees. Another is the tale of Catherine the Great, who, during her reign, became a prominent art collector, gathering scores of European masterpieces and carting them to St. Petersburg. The authors describe how Catherine acquired Dou’s masterpiece triptych, The Nursery, and engaged a Dutch merchant ship to transport the painting, and many others, to the east. That ship, the Vrouw Maria, sank in the Baltic Sea, carrying Catherine’s paintings down with it. The authors trace the numerous attempts, over the centuries, to find the shipwreck (and the paintings trapped inside) and bring it to the surface. In 1999, a wreck hunter discovered the ship perfectly preserved, but Russian and Finnish officials have disputed the ownership of its contents. While the intriguing narrative contains a fine collection of eccentric characters, the style doesn’t always live up to the appealing subject matter. The authors have an unfortunate penchant for alliteration—e.g., “the apprehensive adolescent,” “stoic soldier,” and “preaching patriarch”—and they occasionally overreach by including too many minor characters, from 17th-century aristocrats to 20th-century Finnish divers. Still, they are largely successful in their synthesis of a massive amount of complicated material, creating an often suspenseful tale that should please the many “treasure hunters, marine archeologists, art historians, financial investors, and adventure-story lovers [who] continue to contemplate the fate of the [ship’s] precious cargo.”

Though weighed down by excessive detail and infelicitous prose, it’s an entertaining yarn whose ending is yet to be written.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64313-556-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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