The diary should appeal to readers of Keilson’s fiction but not most general readers.

1944 DIARY

The wartime diary of a celebrated novelist.

When Keilson (The Death of the Adversary, 2011) was in his 30s, he spent a period of time in hiding. In the early 1940s, the writer and psychotherapist fled to the Netherlands with his wife and daughter. But by 1944, the Netherlands had been occupied, and while his non-Jewish wife took their child to live elsewhere, Keilson acquired fake papers and moved in with the Rientsma family. During that period, the author had an affair with a younger Jewish woman, also in hiding, and composed a series of sonnets inspired by the affair; he also wrote fiction and kept a diary. Keilson’s novels were first published in English only a few years ago, to great acclaim. The diary will be of great interest to fans of his fiction. He describes the ups and downs of his passion for Gertrud, his wife, and Hanna, his mistress. Regarding Hanna and the sonnets she inspired, Keilson writes, “I have the feeling of having sucked everything out of her it’s possible to get, like out of a lemon…and then turned it into poetry.” Those sonnets are included in this volume. Searls, Keilson’s capable translator, tells us that the “poems are written in a clipped, tightly coiled German,” with “a wrought, elliptical, intense style.” Unfortunately, those tight coils don’t come across in translation; in English, the poems feel awkward—e.g., the first two lines of the first one: “I son, you daughter, children of one blood, / so bitter ripe for Death in his fierce mowing.” In the diary, Keilson also includes notes on his readings as well as speculation on what life will be like after the war. Surprisingly, he spends little time describing that war and his experience of it. “Meanwhile, heavy fighting in the Netherlands!” he writes, in late September. “Nijmegen, Arnhem!” But then, in the next sentence: “These events, however much they grip me, are no longer my real life.”

The diary should appeal to readers of Keilson’s fiction but not most general readers.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-53559-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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 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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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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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