Recommended for fans of imperial histories, royal scandals, or tragic romances.

TWILIGHT OF EMPIRE

THE TRAGEDY AT MAYERLING AND THE END OF THE HABSBURGS

A study of the many mysteries surrounding the death of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary and his mistress.

The conventional story holds that the couple was at Mayerling, Rudolf’s hunting lodge, where he shot her, then sat with her body for hours before shooting himself. A story of love denied and lovers united forever in death? Maybe not. King and Wilson (co-authors: Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age, 2015, etc.) first establish the miserable life of Rudolf. His father, Emperor Franz Joseph, treated him like a military cadet with no power or influence. His mother, Empress Elisabeth, escaped her vicious, controlling mother-in-law by ignoring her only son. The only time his mother stepped up was when she demanded that Rudolf’s governor, appointed by Franz Joseph, be replaced. A cruel, abusive man, he drove his young child to a nervous breakdown. His new governor fed Rudolf’s intelligence, although he may have overdone it, with dozens of different instructors giving lessons. Rudolf was smart and talented, and he was inclined toward modern thought, intellectuals, and the idea of a prosperous middle class. He was also volatile and often threatened suicide, waving his gun around and begging others to commit suicide with him. His many affairs left him with a venereal disease, which he passed to his wife, causing sterility and leaving no hope of a royal heir. His affair with Baroness Mary Vetsera was arranged by her mother, wealthy social climber Helene Baltazzi, and Rudolf’s cousin, Marie Larisch. Helene’s motives for prostituting her daughter were to gain access to the right places and people. Marie’s motives were strictly mercenary. Helene gave her money and clothes while Mary and Rudolf were victims of her blackmail. There are many theories of why and how the two died, even that Rudolf was quite finished with Mary, who may have been pregnant. Rumor upon rumor abounded, and the authors lay out a variety of theories for readers to ponder.

Recommended for fans of imperial histories, royal scandals, or tragic romances.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-08302-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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