Passionate and well-intended but not especially accessible.




A controversial scholar/journalist’s quasi-academic account of how she helped transform Australian land dedicated to dairy farming back into rain forest.

Though based for much of her career in England, Greer (Shakespeare’s Wife, 2008, etc.) had always intended to return to her native Australia. For 20 years, she roved across the continent’s desert interior “hunting for [her] own patch of ground.” The land she would eventually buy was in southeast Queensland, not far from the Gold Coast and near areas overrun by tourists. Partly inspired by her botanist sister, Greer decided to rehabilitate the remains of a rain forest growing on her property, “[b]attered by clearing, by logging, by spraying and worse.” Not only did she seek to heal a small piece of her beloved Australia; she also wanted to demonstrate that restoring the land to itself was the work of “dedicated individuals.” Government efforts at environmental conservation had been a failure. The little money delegated to preservation had been used to “protect the tourists from themselves.” None had been spent on restoring Australian flora threatened by plant species brought to the continent by early settlers with the “civilizing” aim of making their new home look more like Britain. With seemingly limitless vigor, Greer documents her rain forest finds—including Australian white beech trees nearly logged out of existence—and the indigenous and post-colonial histories of the land she would call the Cave Creek Rainforest Rehabilitation Scheme. Her late-life foray into environmentalism and the establishment of a charity that would preserve the land on which she cheerfully spent her life savings are nothing short of extraordinary. At the same time, her enthusiasm for spreading the gospel of biodiversity is also a source of narrative weakness. The scholarly presentation of textual material and lack of more personal details regarding her Australian rain forest venture will strike readers as overly fastidious and tiresome.

Passionate and well-intended but not especially accessible.

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62040-611-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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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...


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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