Another winning biography from Lee. Those who love Fitzgerald’s work will tuck this book right next to her volumes.

Lee (President/Wolfson Coll., Oxford; Biography: A Very Short Introduction, 2009) devotes her considerable talents for biography to Penelope Knox Fitzgerald (1916-2000), who didn’t publish her first book until the age of 58.

The author presents the story of Fitzgerald’s initially charmed life and her days at Oxford in the wildly political 1930s, where she discovered John Ruskin and William Morris, her intellectual heroes. She was preceded at Oxford by her mother, her father, the editor of Punch, and his brothers, and that earlier generation set a standard for intellectual writing that Penelope inherited. Her husband, Desmond Fitzgerald, was equally talented but eventually drank away his career and life. For a time, the couple endured abject poverty, at one point living on an old barge in the Thames. Those two years were the subject of the Booker Prize–winning Offshore (1979), which depicted their perpetually damp home, which required a high tide to flush the toilet. That adventure ended when the boat sank with all her notes and papers. Fortunately for readers, Lee had access to the copious notes Fitzgerald made for each of her books. Even for works of pure fiction, she researched the smallest, seemingly insignificant facts. Lee’s biography will provide a vivid portrait for those who have not encountered Fitzgerald’s work and will prove immensely satisfying for her many fans. The author reproduces pieces of her subject’s writing at (occasionally too-) considerable length, but Fitzgerald’s mastery of phrasing and the beauty of her work should lead readers back to her books, particularly The Bookshop (1977), which was shortlisted for the Booker, or The Blue Flower, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998.

Another winning biography from Lee. Those who love Fitzgerald’s work will tuck this book right next to her volumes.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-35234-5

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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