A concise, critical look at the Indian leader, emphasizing his striving for spiritual perfection.

Unlike Joseph Lelyveld’s recent exhaustive study of Gandhi and the evolution of his ideas, Great Soul (2011), this work by British historian Adams (Hideous Absinthe, 2003, etc.) goes right to the essential thought of the Mahatma, despite his confounding, albeit engaging inconsistencies. The author sticks to primary sources, such as accounts by Gandhi's secretaries, while remaining somewhat leery of Gandhi’s own autobiography, because of his elusive relationship to truth (“I have grown from truth to truth”). In discrete, tidy chapters, Adams embarks on the main tenets of Gandhi’s life: his pampered upbringing by a very devout Hindu mother; his marriage at age 13 to Kasturbai, also his age, which would arouse his later disgust for Hindu marriage rituals; his lifelong striving for chastity and the shaping of his brahmacharya vow; his obsession with his diet, a system of trial-and-error that would often leave him weak and ill; his early law education in England, a great sacrifice for his family, though later he would essentially sever ties to his relatives, refuse to educate his sons and support his family financially; his use of fasting as a political tool; and his gradual political engagement, from his time as a young barrister in South Africa to his return to India as a national leader for the rights of the indentured servants, miners, poor and untouchables. He sought emancipation by doing—living in self-sufficient simplicity within his ashrams, where he imposed the strictest discipline on himself and others, immersing himself in sacred texts of all religions. The concluding chapter on Gandhi’s “Legacy” considers his assassin’s criticism of Gandhi’s sense of his own infallibility, as well as the terrible repercussions from the partition of Pakistan and Gandhi’s invaluable catalyst to global movements of human rights. A tight synthesis and good introduction to Gandhi’s life and work.


Pub Date: July 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60598-171-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?