A captivating, diverse study of an equally fascinating figure.

FREDERICK THE GREAT

A LIFE IN DEED AND LETTERS

An ambitious portrait that concentrates on the enlightened monarch’s intellectual (rather than military) achievements.

From an early age, Frederick the Great (1712–86) was an avid reader and flutist, much to the chagrin of his warlike, overbearing father, Frederick William I. At 18, Frederick was imprisoned and courtmartialled (and a friend of his was executed) for plotting to flee his father’s dull court for France, where he intended to realize his artistic and literary dreams. Having failed in his escape, Frederick had a strict regimen of political and religious study imposed on the young prince—one that served him well during the Seven Years War (when he faced, and defeated, almost all the other European powers combined). Frederick turned Prussia into a force to be reckoned with: he added territory to the kingdom, further modernized the army, encouraged religious tolerance, and implemented sweeping legal reform. But his major accomplishment as portrayed by MacDonogh (Berlin, 1998) was his patronage of the arts, particularly his correspondence with Voltaire. MacDonogh intersperses scenes of war throughout Germany with Frederick’s exchange of letters with the philosopher. The two maintained a lovehate relationship for 42 years, their letters filling three volumes of Frederick’s collected writings. Voltaire, forever greedy for more royal indulgences, runs between Versailles and Potsdam—at one point being arrested at the border by Prussian soldiers who feared that he might publish some of Frederick’s more bawdy poems. Frederick, his admiration for Voltaire bordering on obsession, tolerates the philosopher even when the French king employs him as a spy. As Frederick did so much in the military arena, however, it’s impossible not to devote space to that material. MacDonogh traces Frederick’s conquests, but never with the same gusto as when he discusses his turbulent relations with intellectuals. As a result, as a military history, the work suffers in depth what it gains in breadth, with the cultural history making up for the loss.

A captivating, diverse study of an equally fascinating figure.

Pub Date: April 17, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-25318-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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