AN IMMODEST VIOLET

THE LIFE OF VIOLET HUNT

Published in Great Britain in 1990, this biography of novelist Violet Hunt by rookie book-author Hardwick, a former schoolteacher, lacks the substance and vivid detail of Barbara Belford's Violet of the same year. Born in 1862, growing up among the Pre-Raphaelites, flirting with Oscar Wilde and John Ruskin, Hunt began her series of scandalous affairs at age 20 and the first of her 17 forgotten novels (like White Rose of Weary Leaf) at age 32. Her friends included Henry James; her lovers, Somerset Maugham and, most notoriously, Ford Madox Ford, who wrote about their relationship in his fiction. Calling Hunt ``one of those women who led the way out of Victorian times into a new age,'' Hardwick admires the writer's ``determination not to accept a predetermined role,'' her attempts to expose the ``hypocrisies and confusion of her society,'' and the way she honestly portrays herself in fiction and in diaries. Unfortunately, leaden and imprecise writing (Hardwick apparently lacked access to certain papers) seem to keep the author from offering more than a fleshless biographical outline and hollow reassessments of Hunt's work. Relying too much on strings of quotes from Hunt's contemporaries, Hardwick rarely digs into her subject's psyche or into the lively literary milieu of the Edwardian London in which she lived. Too often, the reader is left wondering about the specifics. At one point, Hardwick says that Hunt ``was one of the few women who did not succeed in becoming [H.G.] Wells's mistress.'' Later, the author refers to Wells as one of Hunt's lovers. Belford, by comparison, clarified the facts—stating that in ``1906, while still seeing Maugham, James, and Bennett socially, Violet began a year long affair with H.G. Wells.'' Again and again, the reader looks to Belford's lively and extensively researched book to find out what exactly happened to the Hunt that contemporaries described as a ``brilliant,'' ``viperish-looking beauty.'' A thwarted attempt to rescue a vital Violet Hunt from the sidelines of literary history. Read the Belford instead. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-233-98639-1

Page Count: 205

Publisher: Andre Deutsch/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1991

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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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