Frightening, inspiring, and cautionary in equal measure.



Going through her late grandmother’s closet yielded discoveries in a shoebox that propelled the author on a decadeslong pursuit through her family’s history before, during, and after the Holocaust.

Guardian columnist Freeman (Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies (and Why We Don't Learn Them From Movies Anymore), 2016, etc.) returns with a highly personal, thoroughly and lovingly researched tale of her family. The members of the family Ghlas (the spelling then) fled when the Nazis began to sweep through Eastern Europe; they settled in France, thinking they were safe. They weren’t. One sister escaped to America, but the rest remained; some hid, and some were arrested (one died in Auschwitz). All were in deadly danger. To conduct her impressive research, the author traveled everywhere relevant: former homes, prison camps, and homes of survivors who could add to the stories. Along the way, Freeman discovered many remarkable things about her grandmother’s generation. One sibling became a noted fashion designer; another pioneered the use of microfilm; another (the one who fled to America) married an American and never got to realize her dream of returning to live in France. Throughout, the author provides thrilling tales of escape, near misses, arrests, deportations, resistance, and betrayals. After the war, members of the family stayed in France but never forgot the way some of their French neighbors had eagerly denounced Jews to the Nazis. Freeman made a host of other astonishing discoveries: One sibling became friends with Chagall and Picasso; the microfilm sibling made a fortune. Freeman’s technique is chronological, as she follows one sibling and then shifts to another, which allows readers to learn all the stories. All are gone now—Freeman includes a poignant chapter about the death of each—and she concludes with stories (including her own) about the subsequent generations.

Frightening, inspiring, and cautionary in equal measure.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9915-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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 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...


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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