Mantel’s voice, often gently whimsical, can also snarl with anger and bite with satire.

GIVING UP THE GHOST

A MEMOIR

An English critic and novelist (Fludd, 2000, etc.) summons the ghosts of her childhood and youth.

In some ways, Mantel’s early life was a struggle against ignorance and the brutalities that are its children. A stepfather brooked no disagreements and referred to her as “they”; classmates engaged in creative cruelty; teachers (especially one beast named Malachy) were boring and malevolent; a sexist university law tutor was a “talentless prat in a nylon shirt”; incompetent medicos prescribed psychotropics when confronted with complexity. Mantel begins and ends with the decision to sell their second home, a place in Norfolk she and her husband called “Owl Cottage.” Her stepfather’s ghost remained there. Mantel believes in specters and relates one particularly harrowing experience, when she was seven, of being occupied by a formless yet substantive horror she saw in the garden. At the time she was sure it was the devil. The experience became one of the enduring presences in her life. Mantel writes about the many other realities with grace, humor, irony, and, sometimes, bitterness. She tells about how she had two fathers living in the house at the same time (her biological father shared the dwelling with her mother’s lover), about her relationships with relatives and books. After reading stories about King Arthur she decided she would be a combination railway guard, like her grandfather, and knight errant. She takes us through the Davy Crockett and Elvis crazes (neither touched her much) and describes the remarkable day when she received the results of her pivotal eleven-plus exam: “Passed. So I can have a life, I thought.” The most alarming passages deal with her battles with endometriosis, a chronic gynecological disease undiagnosed for a decade by purblind physicians and sexist shrinks. Along the way, she has much of interest to say about the vagaries of memory, the betrayals of the body, and the art of writing.

Mantel’s voice, often gently whimsical, can also snarl with anger and bite with satire.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2003

ISBN: 0-8050-7472-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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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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