With this family history, Epstein (Children of the Holocaust, 1979, etc.) adds a vivid and telling chapter to the reconstruction of Jewish women's history, one life at a time. While she can't recover all the details of her great- grandmother Therese's, grandmother Pepi's, and mother Franci's lives in Czechoslovakia, she more than compensates by re-creating the times, the milieus, and the circumstances in which they found themselves. The settings range from the Bohemian town of Brtnice, to the Belle Epoque Vienna of assimilated Jews such as Freud, Mahler, and Herzl, where Therese committed suicide after her oldest son's death from peritonitis, to newly independent and cosmopolitan Prague in the 1920s, where Pepi ran a fashion salon in which wealthy women gathered to gossip, exchange intimacies, and catch up on the latest Paris fashions, and ultimately to Auschwitz, Bergen- Belsen, and finally New York. Focusing in particular on the social roles of women, Epstein presents Pepi's salon as ``a rare institution that allowed a woman to acquire expertise and authority . . . a feminine realm, where women could speak.'' For Pepi and for Franci, who took over the business at the age of 18, it also provided a solid income and a refuge from harsh realities: marital unhappiness, the advent of Hitler, impending war. All three, Therese, Pepi, and Franci, were strong, capable women who faced great adversity, from poverty to the loss of loved ones to war and near-extermination. Other remarkable women figure in Epstein's tale: sternly pious Aunt Rosa, who raised the orphaned Pepi and lived to regret marrying her off to a man who turned out to be syphilitic (he did at least refrain from consummating their union); a friend of Franci's who worked for the Czech resistance during WW II. There is much more in this real-life family saga, about Czech history, and relations between men and women, Czechs and Jews, rich and poor. It is a compelling account, one that any woman trying to recover her history will value.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 1997

ISBN: 0-316-24608-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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