An account that will likely satisfy those with republican sympathies. A truly objective take on the Troubles and the...

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A FARTHER SHORE

IRELAND’S LONG ROAD TO PEACE

A partial, partisan view of the process by which Northern Ireland’s warring factions were brought to conference in the mid-1990s, a process that yielded the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Adams, the longtime leader of the republican Sinn Féin party, was a key player in those negotiations—and, he is understandably reluctant to say, in the sectarian violence that made those peace talks so desirable. His memoir, certainly of interest to all who have followed the tortuous, bloody course of Northern Irish politics since the 1960s, offers numerous villains for consideration: radical unionists, who favored keeping Northern Ireland a part of the UK; the Royal Ulster Constabulary, given to spraying Catholic neighborhoods with machine-gun fire; and especially the British government, and even more especially the administration of Margaret Thatcher. (“When ten men died in the H-Blocks” following hunger strikes in the early 1980s, Adams insists in a typical turn of rhetoric, “Margaret Thatcher and her regime were seen to be the criminals.”) These three forces, Adams writes, were responsible for introducing an early campaign of “ethnic cleansing” in Northern Ireland by forcing the relocation of hundreds of Catholic families in 1969, which quickened the pace of violence and retaliation; all three behaved badly since, reluctant to give up the gun and truncheon. On the other side, the Irish Republican Army (of which Sinn Féin is the legal, political wing) committed its share of atrocities, too, and while Adams doesn’t much like to talk about such things, he does admit IRA responsibility for the Enniskillen bombing of 1987, when 11 civilians died: “My response,” Adams writes, “was that what the IRA did was wrong. The people who had gathered there were victims of an IRA action which should not have happened.” Finally weary of the bloodshed, the warring parties agreed to negotiations in the mid-1990s, a process moved forward by intervention from a farther shore indeed—namely, Irish-American politicians and Bill Clinton, who took a strong interest in brokering a peace that has yet to be fully realized.

An account that will likely satisfy those with republican sympathies. A truly objective take on the Troubles and the peacemaking process will probably have to be written by a Martian.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-50815-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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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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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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