A riveting biography of a remarkable man.




The making of an unlikely hero.

To his prominent and wealthy relatives, Raoul Wallenberg (b. 1912) seemed not dependable enough to entrust with a responsible position in the family’s bank. As journalist Carlberg depicts him in this absorbing, masterful biography, Wallenberg was “charming, extroverted and creative, but also somewhat impulsive.” “He was very much a salesman,” a friend recalled. “He was almost always happy. And funny,” amusing his friends, in the 1930s, with imitations of Hitler, Churchill, and Stalin. After training as an architect at the University of Michigan and then working in South Africa and Haifa, Wallenberg returned to his native Sweden to seek employment. In 1941, he became an instructor in the National Home Guard, earning praise for being “more skilled and creative…than many of the career military.” Soon, he found a paying job as foreign director of a Swedish food import company owned by a Hungarian Jew. That was the position he held when, in June 1944, he was tapped to carry out a rescue mission for the American War Refugee Board, in alliance with Sweden. Multilingual, with high-level Hungarian business contacts, he seemed the perfect person: “highly skilled, of good reputation, [and] a non-Jew.” Only Stockholm’s chief rabbi was skeptical, concerned that Wallenberg’s real motivation was “a desire for adventure.” Carlberg’s tense, detailed narrative traces Wallenberg’s work in Budapest, beginning in July 1944. Starting with a handful of employees, by year’s end, he had 300. His talent at diplomacy—he had dinner with the furious, alcoholic Adolph Eichmann—was matched with bold subterfuge, as he managed to put huge numbers of Jews under Swedish protection. But efforts to exterminate them were relentless. Wallenberg placed his hopes in the Russians; although Soviet troops freed over 100,000 Jews living in a sealed ghetto, in 1945, Wallenberg was arrested as a spy and disappeared.

A riveting biography of a remarkable man.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68144-490-1

Page Count: 640

Publisher: MacLehose/Quercus

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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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