An hor d’oeuvre of a book: By the end, your appetite is whetted, but you’re nowhere near satisfied.

THE WOMEN OF THE HOUSE

HOW A COLONIAL SHE-MERCHANT BUILT A MANSION, A FORTUNE, AND A DYNASTY

The history of Hudson Valley’s Philipse Manor Hall, told through the lives of four women who lived in it during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Zimmerman (Made from Scratch, 2003, etc.) begins with Margaret Hardenbroeck, a wealthy Dutch entrepreneur who, with her second husband, Frederick Philipse, bought 57,000 acres of land during the 1670s and built the mansion on it in 1682. The author describes it with well-chosen adjectives, from the “ponderous” front door and “generous” hearth to the “stylish” painted tiles by the fireplace. After Hardenbroeck died in 1691, Philipse married Catherine von Cortlandt, an “upright, sensible woman” who had the added advantage of being very rich. She survived him and continued to live in the house, though ownership passed to her step-grandson. His wife, Joanna Brockholst, expanded the kitchen and added a parlor; with a dozen children, the couple needed more space. One of those children, Mary, is the author’s final heroine. Her goal was to build her own home, an ambition fulfilled when she married Roger Morris and presided over the Manhattan manor now known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Throughout, Zimmerman gestures toward larger themes in social history. She notes that married women’s property rights were eroded when the English took over New Amsterdam, and she touches on the dangers that Loyalists in New York faced during the Revolutionary War. But she never quite figures out what she intends her narrative to be. Sometimes it seems like the chronicle of a house, sometimes the story of four well-heeled women, sometimes a history of early New York. She heads in all these directions, but arrives at none of them. (Her discussion of the New York slave revolt of 1712 is especially skimpy.)

An hor d’oeuvre of a book: By the end, your appetite is whetted, but you’re nowhere near satisfied.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-15-101065-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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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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