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Zimmerman tells an intriguing history from the available evidence, but Sargent’s subjects ultimately remain out of reach.

Zimmerman (The Women of the House: How a Colonial She-Merchant Built a Mansion, a Fortune, and a Dynasty, 2006, etc.) examines the mysterious couple in John Singer Sargent’s famous painting Mr. and Mrs. I.N. Phelps Stokes.

This “Gilded Age romance” is both a starry-eyed look at how the wealthy lived during the turn of the century and a love story full of highs and lows. The woman in the painting was Edith Minturn, nicknamed “Fiercely” for her independent streak, whose family made a fortune from shipbuilding, which it lost and regained. The man in the painting was her husband I.N. Phelps Stokes, who, though his family was in banking, was set on becoming an architect. The portrait that immortalized them was a wedding gift to the new couple, intended to show the new bride in all of her elegant finery. Instead, Sargent presented a portrait of young American vitality and, possibly, a feminist statement in a time when women were struggling for the right to vote. Zimmerman, like Sargent, sees something more in these two. She was a classic beauty who served as the model for the Statue of the Republic at the famous World’s Columbian Exhibition and became a devoted wife, mother and advocate for the poor. He was a talented builder whose dreams of affordable housing for the underclass were derailed by an obsessive desire to complete a massive study titled The Iconography of Manhattan Island. Their lives were big but not dramatic; they were the kind of people who would have inspired James and Wharton, but whose own stories seem mostly interior.

Zimmerman tells an intriguing history from the available evidence, but Sargent’s subjects ultimately remain out of reach.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-15-101447-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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