In his search for the historical Bard of Avon, religious historian Wilson (Jesus: The Evidence, 1991) penetrates the Elizabethan stage's shadow world with some success but tendentiously turns Shakespeare into a cypher for crypto-Catholic theories. Beginning with scholarly straw men (the Francis Bacon theories of authorship and the Stratford tourism version of Shakespeare), Wilson delves deeply into Shakespeare studies to recreate the world of the acting company, suggesting with some justification that the apprentice bard may have acted more important roles in much more elaborate and historically accurate productions in the newly discovered Rose theater than previously believed; Wilson also describes the bustling Elizabethan literary life of competitive poets and noble patrons. In a conjectural opening move for his crypto-Catholic theory, Wilson proposes the possibly recusant noble Ferdinando Stanley as Shakespeare's mysterious first patron who introduced him into the conspiracy-ridden court scene, which would later involve the playwright with the Essex rebellion. While Wilson rightly cites the uncertain post-Reformation stance of provincial Stratford, he oversimplifies the breadth and complexity of the Elizabethan experience with Catholic revisionism and reads highly tenuous interpretations into Shakespeare's texts, such as dubious references to Mary, Queen of Scots in King John or a pro-Jesuit reading of the porter scene in Macbeth. Most disingenuously Wilson obscures well-known evidence conflicting with his theory: He avoids the paper trail of an early multi-authored play, The Booke of Sir Thomas More, that links Shakespeare with Anthony Munday, a literary hack whom Wilson consistently vilifies for his pro-Protestant Elizabethan espionage; and he omits the fact that the London family whom Shakespeare lodged with for many years were Huguenots—which would have been an absurd risk for a recusant. Despite unearthing some controversial historical possibilities, Wilson ultimately displays as much wishful thinking in making Shakespeare a crypto-Catholic as others have in attributing his plays to Francis Bacon. (54 b&w photos, not seen; 14 figures)

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 1994

ISBN: 0-312-11335-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1994

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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