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A convincing and affecting corrective: an act of admiration, and love. (49 b&w illustrations)

A fond remembrance of an alluring young editor who married the dying author of Animal Farm and steadfastly administered his literary affairs thereafter, earning the enmity of some Orwell partisans.

Spurling (La Grand Thérèse, 2000, etc.) met Sonia Brownell (1918–80) in 1970 and was quickly taken with the mercurial, intelligent woman whose vagaries occasionally mystified even her friends and supporters. In her preface, Spurling declares her purpose: to restore Sonia’s reputation, to fracture “the myth of the cold and grasping Widow Orwell,” and to humanize someone the author believes has been unfairly maligned. Sonia was born to English parents in India. But her father died (a possible suicide) when she was only four months old, and so the mother returned to England and employed whatever means she could to protect and raise her two daughters. Sonia was bright—especially adept at languages—and went to Switzerland to study French in 1935. A horrible boating accident on Lake Geneva killed a friend; this episode, says Spurling, permanently affected Sonia. The author periodically composes paeans to Sonia’s beauty (sometimes excessively so), but there is no doubt that she magnetized men. (She apparently attracted an entire London school of artists near her flat.) Involved for years with Horizon magazine, Sonia was by most accounts a spectacular employee: assiduous, charming, creative, informed. (Some male writers, however, lost their fondness for her when they received her crisp, professional rejection notices.) Spurling reveals that Sonia is the model for the luscious Julia in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the novel he finished shortly before he died of TB in 1950. Indeed, the dying novelist trusted Sonia so profoundly that he made her his sole heir. She protected his legacy sternly and co-edited the well-received four-volume Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters (1968). She married badly another time but was the trusted friend of Ivy Compton-Burnett, Jean Rhys, Mary McCarthy, and many other luminaries.

A convincing and affecting corrective: an act of admiration, and love. (49 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-58243-243-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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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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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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