A thoughtful meditation on a ruthless, mysterious final act.



Why did a bright, vivacious young woman, the author’s mother, kill herself?

In 1965, when he was 4 years old, Gavron (Creative Writing/Warren Wilson Coll.; An Acre of Barren Ground, 2005, etc.) was told that his mother, Hannah, had died of a heart attack. He grew up knowing nothing more until, at the age of 16, his father revealed another story: in a friend’s apartment not far from where Sylvia Plath had lived and died, his 29-year-old mother had committed suicide after she was rejected by a lover who turned out to be homosexual. In 2005, two life-altering events—his older brother’s sudden death and his own heart attack—unleashed a desire to finally learn the truth about his mother. Like an archaeologist “conjuring a jar out of a few shards,” Gavron found fragments of elucidation in his grandfather’s diaries; his mother’s writings; and from interviews with family, friends, and even her last lover. In calm, temperate prose that belies his pain, anger, and frustration, he recounts his journey into his mother’s life and last days. Hannah had been a sexually precocious teenager who may have had an affair with the headmaster of her boarding school when she was 14. She studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, married at 18, and, with her husband’s encouragement, enrolled in college. Eight years later, already the mother of two sons, she emerged with a doctorate in sociology. Her thesis, published posthumously, was titled “The Captive Wife.” Based on interviews, Hannah argued, “some women felt trapped and depressed rather than happy and satisfied at home with their children.” She may have shared those feelings, but they were complicated by narcissism, anxiety, panic, and “sudden ‘fits of despair’ ” when things did not go her way. As he delves into his mother’s personality, Gavron astutely concludes that “no suicide is the product of only one thing,” and all have shattering consequences for survivors.

A thoughtful meditation on a ruthless, mysterious final act.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61519-338-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: The Experiment

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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 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...


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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