A deft, authoritative, and engaging reappraisal of the great Victorian novelist.

CHARLES DICKENS

AN INTRODUCTION

Restless, tireless, and prolific, Dickens “became an adjective in his own lifetime.”

As part of Oxford’s informative Introduction series, Hartley (English/Univ. of Roehampton; Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women, 2008, etc.), scholar in residence at the Charles Dickens Museum, offers a brisk, acutely perceptive overview of the British writer’s life, work, and legacy. Her distillation of Dickens’ biography touches on familiar points: the lonely, poverty-stricken childhood; a brief, adolescent romance; marriage and the birth of 10 children; his affair with actress Ellen Ternan; his long career as a journalist and editor; and his catapult to fame, at the age of 24, with the serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. Besides creating biographical context, Hartley sharply examines the themes that engaged Dickens throughout his career, dominated by “his critique of the dehumanizing structures, ideologies, and bureaucracies of nineteenth-century Britain.” Because of his fame, Dickens was a sought-after speaker “in support of good causes,” which included sanitary reforms, the establishment of schools for poor children, and the improvement of conditions in workhouses and debtors prisons, something he recalled, darkly, from personal experience. He could be dismissive and cynical about those in power: “My faith in the people governing, is on the whole, infinitesimal,” he once declared. He was, said George Orwell, “certainly a subversive writer,” and Hartley calls him “a life-long radical.” She judiciously extracts passages from Dickens’ major writings—David CopperfieldOliver TwistHard TimesLittle Dorrit, and the much-loved A Christmas Carol, to name a few—to exemplify the author’s characterizations, plots, and style. His use of cliffhanger chapter endings, Hartley writes, was a strategy necessary in serial publication, which “builds waiting and suspense into the meaning of the novel and makes them a crucial part of the reading experience.” Just as the term “Dickensian” has entered the English language, the novels have endured in popularity throughout the decades.

A deft, authoritative, and engaging reappraisal of the great Victorian novelist.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-19-878816-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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