A turbulent life to be both pitied and envied, and a book to be savored and reread.

THE SUM OF OUR DAYS

A MEMOIR

Loving tribute to an unorthodox family.

In Allende’s acclaimed memoir Paula (1995), the Chilean-born novelist told the story of her tumultuous life in the form of a letter to her beloved, recently deceased daughter. This follow-up picks up the story where the previous book left off, in the guise of keeping the spirit Paula informed of the goings-on in her noisy, exuberant, sometimes tragic extended family. Studded with incredible, often soap-operatic events, the stories here could be melodramatic or even self-indulgent. Instead, burnished by the author’s enormous affection for (almost) every character, the book coalesces into a warm meditation on family and love. After the devastation of Paula’s yearlong decline and eventual death, Allende undertook to gather her fractured clan around her in northern California, where she lived with her American husband Willie. She writes of the couple’s attempts to save his daughter Jennifer. When the drug-addicted young woman lost custody of her fragile, premature baby girl, they found Sabrina a home with a lesbian couple in a Zen monastery. Jennifer was allowed to visit her daughter, but she grew steadily weaker and vanished not long before Sabrina’s first birthday. We also learn of the author’s turbulent but loving relationship with her contrarian, hotheaded daughter-in-law, who fractured the family by leaving Allende’s son Nico for the woman engaged to Willie’s stepson. In the same tell-all spirit, the writer discusses the various heartaches of her steadfast friends, Tabra and Juliette; her successful courtship of the woman she wanted to be Nico’s second wife (they are now happily married); her own numerous parenting and marital missteps; and the painful process of getting over her daughter’s death.

A turbulent life to be both pitied and envied, and a book to be savored and reread.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-155183-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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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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