A witty, edifying treatise.

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ON ROYALTY

A VERY POLITE INQUIRY INTO SOME STRANGELY RELATED FAMILIES

Popular BBC broadcaster Paxman (The English, 2000, etc.) examines the monarchy’s relevance to contemporary British society.

Best known for his confrontational interviews on current-affairs program Newsnight, Paxman keeps his scabrous side firmly in check, taking a relaxed, even humorous approach here. The author quickly establishes his affinity for the oft-troubled fortunes of Britain’s royals with amusing anecdotes about a visit to Sandringham (quizzed about the purpose of the monarchy, Prince Charles quipped, “we’re a soap opera”), the BBC’s archaic preparations for the Queen Mother’s death and a bizarre encounter with Princess Diana. The author casts his net wide as he sets about his task, demonstrating a vast knowledge of all things royal as he darts back and forth in time, linking various events from the past to those of the present. The bookish, chain-smoking Queen of Denmark (Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter) and the sometimes controversial Prince Philip are two of the people interviewed, and the author draws insightful and occasionally humorous jabs from both. Philip rails against the tabloids and even seems agitated that his wife (whom he refers to as “the queen”) reads “every bloody paper she can lay her hands on.” Paxman keeps a generous distance from his subjects for most of the book, reserving his personal opinions for the concluding chapter, which conveys his belief that the royal family will be around for quite some time. Using the surge of interest in Diana’s funeral as a springboard, he points out the inexorable grip the monarchy maintains on our collective imaginations, notes the impracticality of any attempt to break up the royal family and adds interesting notes on their historical and mythological value.

A witty, edifying treatise.

Pub Date: June 30, 2007

ISBN: 1-58648-491-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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